By Jeanie Donovan
It’s been a busy couple months at the Texas Capitol and a handful of bills related to SNAP (formerly food stamps) have been filed. Some of the bills aim to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of SNAP in its mission to ensure that Texans don’t go to bed hungry at night. Several of the proposed bills, however, would add complications to the SNAP application process and increase the complexity and bureaucracy of the program for all involved: including SNAP recipients, state eligibility staff, and grocery retailers who accept SNAP benefits.
This blog post will highlight bills that have been filed that would improve the SNAP program and help to move Texas from its position as the second-most food insecure state in the nation. Next week, we’ll focus on the bills that would do the opposite.
HB 587 (Burnam) & HB 1072 (Allen)
Allow HHSC to continue SNAP benefits for eligible household members, while excluding only the primary wage earner who does not comply with employment and training requirements.
These bills would reduce child food insecurity in Texas by allowing eligible household members and dependents to continue receiving SNAP benefits, even if their parent or caretaker does not complete the employment and training requirements. This statutory change was specifically recommended by the Legislative Budget Board’s Government Effectiveness and Efficiency Report (GEER) as a way to increase food security among vulnerable populations, increase federal funding, and increased tax revenues.
HB 1141 (Naishtat)
Removes the lifetime ban from SNAP for ex-drug offenders.
This bill would improve rehabilitation and reduce recidivism by allowing ex-drug offenders to receive SNAP benefits. The LBB’s GEER report also recommended this statutory change as a way to improve food security, aid in successful reentry, and to streamline administrative processes at HHSC. LBB estimates that the savings at HHSC would be equivalent to the cost of 7 full-time state employees.
SB 403 (Zaffirini) & SB 415 (Ellis) & HB 725 (Guillen)
Establish a Texas Grocery Store Revolving Loan Fund
These bills, although slightly different, would all establish a trust fund that would administer loans to encourage and support grocery stores to open in low-income “food desert” areas of the state. These grocery outlets would be required to accept SNAP and WIC benefits. Similar loan programs have been successful in other states and regions in decreasing food insecurity, increasing access to fresh and healthy foods, and stimulating local economies.