In June 2019, $383.4 million in SNAP benefits was distributed in Texas to approximately 1.5 million people – an average of $260 per case. In the following month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) published a proposed rule that would tighten the requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – also known as food stamps – that could end food assistance for potentially thousands of Texans.
The proposed rule, entitled “Revision of Categorical Eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)” would eliminate the state’s flexibility to adjust the rules based on the needs of their people. Currently, federal law allows states to use categorical eligibility when approving SNAP assistance, meaning a state may automatically certify a family for food stamps if they have already been certified for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The proposed rule change would not only implement a minimum 6 month delay in SNAP benefits for TANF families, but would reduce the already low eligibility levels of income and assets.
Each month, approximately 1.5 million Texans – children, elderly, people with disabilities, veterans and workers who do not earn enough to feed their families – turn to SNAP to help purchase food. Since 2001, applicants in Texas have been required to make no more than 165% of the federal poverty level (approximately $42,000 for a family of four) to be eligible for SNAP benefits. In addition, SNAP participants must not own a car that costs more than $15,000. With this new rule, the eligibility level would fall to 130% of the federal poverty line (approximately $33,000 for a family of four) and the participant would not be able to own a car costing more than $4,650. With many Texans already having limited access to public transportation, and many more living in rural and suburban communities without public transportation, thousands could lose their SNAP benefits simply because they own a reliable car that gets them to work. Under the proposed rule, children from families who lose their benefits would also lose access to free school breakfast and lunch.
With the household food insecurity rate for Texas at 14% (Food Research & Action Center, Insecurity Rates 2015-2017), the proposed rule change would have a dramatic impact. It is estimated that approximately 125,000 Texans will lose their SNAP benefits.
What can you do? The public has until September 23, 2019 to submit comments regarding the proposed rule change. Please join TXWF’s Army of Advocates in speaking up for all those who are at risk of losing their benefits. There are several ways to do so:
Visit Regulations.gov where you can submit a comment. All comments will be made public, but you can choose to leave the name fields blank if you would like to remain anonymous.
You can also send a letter to the following address:
Program Design Branch
Program Development Division, Food and Nutrition Service, USDA
3101 Park Center Drive
Alexandria, VA 22302
Include Docket ID Number [FNS-2018-0037], “Revision of Categorical Eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance” in your letter.
We also ask that you copy any comments to your U. S. Representative and U. S. Senator. You can access their contacts here:
Who Represents Me?
As always, thank you for being a part of Texas Women’s Foundation’s Army of Advocates! Please share this information with others to also get involved.