PUBLIC BENEFITS


The center focuses on health care access, immigrants' access to services, food and nutrition, the state's eligibility and enrollment system, and TANF.

Recent Public Benefits Publications

Comments on the Health and Human Services Commission’s Draft Request for Proposal #529-08-0135 for Eligibility Support Services (12/31/2007)

Associate Director Anne Dunkelberg and Senior Policy Analyst Celia Hagert submitted comments on the Health and Human Services Commission’s draft Request for Proposal #529-08-0135 for Eligibility Support Services. The draft RFP requests proposals from vendors to operate a call center system to support eligibility determination for CHIP, Medicaid, Food Stamps, and TANF. The RFP describes a system substantively similar to the one developed and operated by Accenture under the TAA contract, which was terminated in March 2007. Comments on the draft RFP were due 12/31/07. HHSC has not yet set a date for the release of the final RFP.

CPPP Comments on Texas HHSC Draft Medicaid 1115 Waiver Concept Paper: Submitted to CMS 12/5/07 (12/27/2007)

HHSC has submitted a draft Medicaid waiver concept paper to federal Medicaid authorities as part of its implementation of SB 10. This is a major proposal which could potentially create programs to provide health coverage for uninsured Texas adults under 200% of poverty. However, public input is critical to make sure the resulting programs provide good benefits at affordable price, and the program has enough funding to really serve large numbers of low-income uninsured workers. The draft concept paper as submitted on December 5, 2007 leaves so many critical elements undefined and key questions unanswered that it is impossible for CPPP to make a clear statement of support for the document or the HHSC effort at this point in development. HHSC solicited public comments by December 28, 2007 on the concept paper. CPPP submitted comments. Readers interested in requesting copies of comments from other Texas consumer and provider organizations may contact dunkelberg@cppp.org.

CPPP Comments on the TANF State Plan (12/18/2007)

Senior Policy Analyst Celia Hagert submitted the following comments on the TANF State Plan.

CPPP Comments on HHSC's Initiative to Revise Application Forms for Public Benefits (12/13/2007)

Associate Director Anne Dunkelberg and Senior Policy Analyst Celia Hagert submitted comments on the Health and Human Services Commission’s efforts to revise and redesign the benefit application forms. These comments relate exclusively to Forms H1010 A/B and H1010-E.

Comments Due Soon on Five Key HHSC Documents (12/12/2007)

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has posted five important documents on its web site for public comment: revision of the applications for public benefits; the TANF state plan; a Medicaid Waiver concept paper; and two draft Requests for Proposals relating to modernization of the eligibility and enrollment system for public benefits. We know this is a busy time of the year for everyone, but we urge you to take the time to submit comments to HHSC on these important issues.

Texas Schools Lead Nation in Providing Meals to Children (12/11/2007)

Ninety-nine percent of Texas schools participate in the national School Breakfast Program, ranking Texas 7th best in the country, according to a report released today by the national Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). The report, School Breakfast Scorecard 2007, also finds that more than a million low-income Texas children are eating breakfast at school. Despite its relative success compared to other states, there is room for expansion. For every 100 low-income children that participated in the School Lunch Program in Texas, only 53 also ate breakfast.

URGENT ACTION NEEDED: Farm Bill “Cloture” Vote In Senate Tomorrow (12/6/2007)

Your calls to Senators Hutchison and Cornyn are urgently needed now in support of a new motion to force the Senate to finish its work on the 2007 Farm Bill and pass a Farm Bill with a strong nutrition title as soon as possible in December. The bill has been stalled over disagreements on the number and types of amendments that will be in order. A key vote to break the stalemate is set for tomorrow, December 7th. Starting today and until the cloture vote on Friday, December 7th, call your Senators and urge a “yes” vote on the cloture motion on the 2007 Farm Bill. Hungry people can’t wait.

WIC Funding Crisis: Urgent Action Needed (12/4/2007)

If Congress does not provide sufficient funding for the WIC program before they go home for the December holidays, more than 56,000 low-income mothers and young children may be cut from the WIC program in Texas. Congress is developing an omnibus appropriations bill that would represent a compromise between the lower amount of spending requested by the President and the higher level approved by Congress for various programs. WIC is one of the programs that would be cut under this compromise. Please call your Senators and Representatives in their Washington, D.C. offices immediately.

CPPP Comments on HHSC Key Decisions for Texas Medicaid Waiver Concept Paper (11/6/2007)

CPPP issued comments in response to the Texas Health and Human Service Commission's request for public input on key decision areas that will be discussed in an upcoming Texas Medicaid Waiver Concept Paper.

The Texas Health Care Primer (Revised 2007) (11/1/2007)

The Center for Public Policy Priorities and Methodist Healthcare Ministries are pleased to release this updated primer, designed to give readers an introductory overview of factors shaping Texans' access to health care. Readers will be better able to contribute to federal, state, and local debates about how to improve health care access. There are two versions of the primer: The Booklet Version was designed for two-sided printing. The Side-by-Side Version was designed for on-screen viewing.

Call Right Now: Revised CHIP Bill Up for Vote Today (10/25/2007)

There will be a vote WITHIN AN HOUR OR TWO on a revised Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act. This bill is particularly important for Texas, which has the highest rate of children without health insurance in the country. House members worked in a bipartisan way to meet objections to the previous bill. Several Texas House members, including Representatives McCaul, Granger, and Neugebauer earlier signed a letter urging the very changes which have been made to the legislation. Please urge your congressional representative to vote yes on the revised legislation, which will provide health care to 10 million children.

Audit Recommends Improvements to Employment & Training Program for Welfare Recipients (10/25/2007)

Earlier this month, the State Auditor’s Office released an audit of the Texas Workforce Commission’s administration of the “Choices” program, the employment and training arm of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) welfare program. TANF’s goal is to help very poor parents become self-sufficient through job preparation and employment. Since 2003, the number of Choices participants has fallen by two-thirds, increasing by 85% the amount of employment and training funds available to spend on each welfare recipient. Despite this increase in funds, outcomes for families leaving welfare have not improved. Though the audit concluded that TWC adequately administers the Choices program, it identified the need to improve case management, increase oversight of Choices program expenditures, and improve employment outcomes for welfare recipients. This Policy Page analyzes the auditor’s report. It also summarizes recent research on the most promising strategies for using education and training to improve outcomes for families leaving welfare.

CPPP Statement on SCHIP Vote (10/18/2007)

We are disappointed that Congress did not vote today to override the President’s veto of the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007. Texas benefits when all Texas children have regular health care. Healthy children grow into healthy adults better able to contribute to our economy and participate in our democracy. By 2012, this bipartisan legislation would have provided health insurance to almost 4 million children who would otherwise have had none, including many Texas children. CHIP has been particularly important to Texas because we have 1.5 million uninsured kids (1 out of every 5 Texas children), the highest percentage of uninsured children in the country. Too many Texas children live in families that earn too little to afford private health insurance.

How the Bipartisan CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2007 Helps Texas and How the McConnell-Lott-Cornyn Alternative Hurts Texas (10/10/2007)

On October 18, Congress will vote on whether to override the President’s veto of the bipartisan Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007. Anticipating the vote, America is engaged in a major public debate about children’s health insurance. The Texas Congressional Delegation is split. Senator Hutchison and 12 Texas representatives voted for the bipartisan bill. Senator Cornyn and 18 Texas representatives voted against the bipartisan bill. Senator Cornyn is a co-sponsor of an alternative called McConnell-Lott. This paper analyzes how the bipartisan bill would help our state and how the alternative would hurt. Based upon this analysis, CPPP urges our Texas congressional delegation to vote to override the President’s veto.

President Vetoes CHIP But It's Not Too Late to Override (10/3/2007)

For the past 10 years, the Children’s Health Insurance Program has provided low-cost health insurance to millions of children in Texas and across the nation, helping keep kids healthy while strengthening the economy. For every $1 Texas invests in CHIP, Texas receives $2.64 in matching funds from the federal government. Yet, earlier this morning the President vetoed legislation that would have reauthorized the program and expanded health coverage to nearly 4 million uninsured children through the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). “The President’s veto means that the advances Texas plans for our state CHIP program are at risk,” said Anne Dunkelberg, Associate Director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities. “Fortunately, it’s not too late. Even though the President vetoed the bill, Congress can still pass legislation that will make our children and our country better off."

CPPP Statement Regarding Senator Cornyn’s SCHIP Claims (10/3/2007)

CPPP has released a statement regarding Senator Cornyn’s SCHIP claims. We have also posted a letter we sent to Senator Cornyn in August and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Table that he is misreading that we discuss in the letter.

The Food Stamp Program is Turning 30: Let's Make This Birthday a Happy One! (10/1/2007)

For 30 years, the Food Stamp Program has ensured that low-income Americans have the means to afford a healthy diet--strengthening families, communities, and the nation. Today, more than 2.3 million low-income Texans--most of them children, seniors, or someone with a disability--use Food Stamps to supplement their food budgets. However, cuts to the program 10 years ago have reduced the purchasing power of Food Stamps, making it harder for families to afford an adequate diet. The average family now receives only $3 per person per day for food. We can help prevent hunger by strengthening the Food Stamp Program. Act now by asking our senators to support a modest increase in the Food Stamp benefit in the 2007 Farm Bill.

Big Tobacco Chooses Smoking Over Children; Targets Senator Hutchison (09/24/2007)

Congress is expected to vote as early as tomorrow on reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The agreement between the House and the Senate would increase the number of low-income children CHIP will cover. The increase would be completely paid for by an increase in tobacco taxes. Big Tobacco has targeted one bipartisan leader, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, a supporter of the Senate’s CHIP bill on which the compromise bill is based. Philip Morris paid to send the flyer (see attached) to smokers across Texas urging them to put smoking over health care for children.

From CPPP on CHIP: Update on New Bill and Call to Action! (09/24/2007)

Congress is expected to vote as early as tomorrow on a new bipartisan bill reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The House and the Senate have agreed to increase the number of low-income children CHIP covers and pay for it by increasing tobacco taxes. The President is threatening to veto the bill. A strong bipartisan vote for the bipartisan compromise might stop a veto or strengthen Congress’ hand in the negotiations with the Administration after a veto.

Testimony on Transition Plan Mandated by H.B. 3575 (09/21/2007)

Anne Dunkelberg presented testimony before the Health and Human Services Commission, Subcommittee on Eligibility System on the Transition Plan.

Eligibility System Subcommittee to Consider Transition Plan (09/14/2007)

The 80th Legislature passed HB 3575 to address the problems in the eligibility system for Food Stamps, Medicaid, TANF and CHIP. Among other things, HB 3575 requires HHSC to develop a Transition Plan that outlines its efforts to rebuild the system. HHSC's advisory council has appointed an Eligibility System Subcommittee to oversee the transition. The subcommittee will hold a meeting on Friday, September 21, at 10:00 in the Criss Cole Auditorium at 4800 North Lamar Austin, TX, to review and seek public comment on the Transition Plan. We strongly encourage all parties interested in the future of the eligibility system to attend this meeting. Click here for the agenda for this meeting and a copy of the draft Transition Plan.

Understanding the CHIP Battle in Congress: What Makes a Good CHIP Bill? (08/15/2007)

Funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is in jeopardy in Congress. You may have followed the battle over CHIP in the Texas legislature and thought that CHIP had been fully funded. CHIP, however, is a federal and state program. Unless Congress passes a new bill to fund CHIP, and the President signs it into law, authorization for CHIP expires in September 2007. Congress is in recess now, but will return September 4. Just before the recess, the House and Senate each passed bipartisan bills. Now, the House and Senate will have to compromise on a final bill. The President is threatening a veto. While they are back at home in Texas, please let our U.S. Senators and Congressmen and women know you want them to support full funding of CHIP. Learn what makes a good CHIP bill.

Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day, but Not on the Schedule for Many Students (08/7/2007)

Kids need pens and notebooks to get through the school day, but they also need a healthy breakfast. Yet, a new report from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) in Washington, D.C., finds that in many large urban school districts, including the Houston Independent School District (HISD), most of their low-income students are not getting breakfast on a daily basis. HISD is working to change that by making breakfast part of the school day with its “First Class Breakfast” program.

Overview of Major Actions on CHIP, Medicaid and Child Protective Services (08/1/2007)

CPPP Associate Director Anne Dunkelberg and Policy Analyst Tiffany Roper presented an overview of major actions on the Children's Health Insurance Program, Medicaid, and Child Protective Services to the San Antonio Nonprofit Council.

Amid Controversy, Farm Bill Set for a House Vote Today (07/26/2007)

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on the 2007 Farm Bill (H.R. 2419), which includes $4 billion over five years in improvements in the Food Stamp and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). Texas would receive an additional $278 million dollars over the next five years. However, controversy over how to pay for the new investments may delay passage of the bill. In Texas, 2.3 million people"over 10% of the state’s population"rely on Food Stamps to afford an adequate diet. More than half of these recipients would see an increase in their Food Stamp benefits as a result of the farm bill’s increased investment in the program. Texas receives almost $2.5 billion per year in federal funding for Food Stamps, providing a significant boost to the state’s economy.

Texas' CHIP Funding in Jeopardy at the Federal Level (07/23/2007)

The 2007 Texas legislative session saw important health care victories for Texas children through the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Now it’s up to Washington to reauthorize enough money so that Texas children can receive the quality coverage they deserve. This week will see a full Senate vote on SCHIP and important decisions about the House bill in the Energy and Commerce Committee. Ultimately, this legislation will fund Texas’ CHIP program for the next 5 years. More than any other state, Texas needs a strong CHIP reauthorization to allow our program, which has dropped by more than 200,000 children (over 40% of enrollment) to recover, and then to grow with the population. CHIP is effective and saves the state money, yet the President is threatening to veto the developing legislation, claiming that it would expand the program dramatically, reduce private coverage of low-income children, and pave the way for “government-run health care.” It's time for you to act!

Farm Bill to be Marked Up Tomorrow: What You Can Do Today! (07/16/2007)

Starting tomorrow, the House Agriculture Committee will begin mark up on the 2007 Farm Bill. One of the most important issues in this year's Farm Bill is the future of the Food Stamp Program, which 2.3 million Texans rely on every day. Unfortunately, because of cuts made 10 years ago, the Food Stamp Program’s buying power has diminished every year. The bill to be considered tomorrow includes a $20 billion “reserve fund” to undo these cuts and increase investment in other areas of the Farm Bill, but the financing needed to make these changes in the FY 2008 Budget has not yet been identified. A straight reauthorization of the Farm Bill"with no new money for the Food Stamp Program"is essentially a cut to the program. Call your congressperson today and urge him/her to support Chairman Peterson’s “mark” and make greater investments in the Food Stamp Program.

Texas' CHIP Progress Now Depends on Congress! (07/9/2007)

The 2007 Texas legislative session saw important victories for Texas children. Legislators improved the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) program by restoring annual renewal, eliminating delays in coverage, and streamlining the enrollment process so that more children can receive affordable, cost-effective health care. None of this matters, however, unless Congress reauthorizes the federal CHIP block grant at a high enough funding level to implement these improvements. The House and Senate have preliminarily budgeted the necessary $50 billion for the State Children's Health Insurance Program, known in Washington as SCHIP, in their 2008 Budget Resolutions. The Administration, however, has not been enthusiastic about funding the full $50 billion. Over the next two weeks, House and Senate committees will begin writing the bills that determine how much money states can get for CHIP in the next five years, including whether the necessary $50 billion is budgeted.

The Texas Food Stamp Program (07/1/2007)

Get valuable background on the Texas Food Stamp Program.

Act Now: The Farm Bill is on the Table (06/11/2007)

This week the U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee is expected to mark up the nutrition title of the Farm Bill. One of the most important issues Congress will address in this year's Farm Bill is the future of the Food Stamp Program, which 2.3 million Texans rely on every day. Please call your Congressperson TODAY and ask him to co-sponsor the “Feeding America’s Families Act” (H.R. 2129.

Session Wrap Up (06/6/2007)

We hope you found our research and analysis helpful during the 80th Legislative Session. We are reviewing what the legislature did and didn't do in the session, and waiting to see what the governor may sign or veto. Over the next several weeks, we will release analyses of where Texas stands, including 1) an overview of the budget for 2008-09, 2) where we stand with regard to public benefits, particularly Medicaid and CHIP; 3) what has happened to public benefits eligibility determination, 4) where we are with Child Protective Services, 5) how we fared with regard to workforce and economic development, and 6) what the state's fiscal condition will be going forward. Please keep an eye open for these updates over the summer. If you have thoughts you would like to share with us, e-mail kluever@cppp.org; we welcome your insights.

Report: Hunger Costs Texas $9 Billion a Year; This Hunger Awareness Day, Too Many Texas Kids at Risk of Hunger (06/5/2007)

According to a report released today, Hunger Awareness Day, hunger doesn’t just take a toll on the 1.3 million Texas families who experience food insecurity, but it costs the state more than $9 billion a year. The study, by the University Center on Hunger and Poverty at Brandeis University, estimates this cost by calculating the annual cost for charity, illness and lowered productivity for the nation related to food insecurity. Children are at the highest risk of hunger, especially during the summer, when they can no longer eat breakfast and lunch at school. More than 2.1 million low-income Texas kids rely on free or reduced-priced meals during the school year.

Update on CHIP Bills (05/24/2007)

We are waiting for the Senate to name conferees for the conference committee on HB 109, where a compromise will hopefully be ironed out and sent to the Governor for passage. In the meantime, we have prepared an update of the House conferees and the costs and caseloads estimated in both bills.

Today: Fight Hunger by Making a Call! (05/22/2007)

In Texas, 2.3 million people rely on Food Stamps and more than 1.3 million people--the third highest in the nation--are food insecure. All day today, May 22, support a strong nutrition title in the 2007 Farm Bill by urging your U.S. senators and representative to support H.R. 2129.

Comparing the House and Senate CHIP Bills: House Would Cover More Children (05/21/2007)

The House passed HB 109 by a 128-17 vote on April 3. This bill would reform the Children's Health Insurance Program by allowing children to re-apply for CHIP once a year instead of twice, eliminating a 90-day waiting period for coverage, and letting families deduct child care expenses when determining their eligibility. On Thursday, May 17, the Senate Finance Committee passed a different bill that would make most of the same improvements to CHIP but modify the 12-month coverage. As a result, HHSC projects the Senate bill would cover 33,351 fewer kids than the House bill. Higher CHIP enrollment is also needed to avoid future forfeiting of millions of dollars in federal CHIP funds. The full Senate will vote on HB 109 this week, and a conference committee to negotiate a compromise is likely.

Why the Farm Bill Matters for Texas (05/15/2007)

At the end of May, Congress will begin debating the 2007 Farm Bill, legislation that affects not just farmers, but the 2.3 million Texans who rely on Food Stamps to make ends meet. Statewide, 25% of Texas children receive Food Stamps. Nationally, roughly half of all Americans between the ages of 20 and 65 will use Food Stamps at some point in their lives when they fall on hard times. Due to program cuts in 1996, the purchasing power of Food Stamps has eroded. Families now get $40 less a month. This means that Food Stamp recipients get just $1 per meal per day, increasing their risk of running out of food before the end of the month or forcing them to buy cheaper, less healthy food. The 2007 Farm Bill is an opportunity to increase the value of Food Stamps. Read on to learn more about Food Stamp erosion and to get Food Stamp enrollment data by county.

Plenty of Food for Thought: Austin American-Statesman (05/13/2007)

Due to cuts in 1996, the purchasing power of Food Stamps has eroded. Food Stamp recipients now get just $1 per meal per day, which increases families’ risk of running out of food before the end of the month or forces them to buy cheaper, less healthy food. But don’t just take our word for it. For the week of May 15- May 21, Congressman Lloyd Doggett, the Capital Area Food Bank, and the Center for Public Policy Priorities challenge Central Texans to eat and drink only what $1 a meal"or $21 a week"can buy.

Call to Action to Preserve Access to Higher Education for Texas Children (05/9/2007)

HB 159 by Zedler is on the House's Major State Calendar for today. HB 159 would repeal current law that permits Texas children who graduated from a Texas high school pay the in-state tuition rate for state colleges and universities, regardless of immigration status. To ensure Texas prosperity, we must help these children realize their full potential. We do not want to create barriers to their education. Pick up the phone right now and call your representative to tell them to vote NO on H.B. 159. Find your representative at http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/.

Update on the Integrated Eligibility System (05/7/2007)

The committee substitute for House Bill 3575 (CSHB 3575), by Rep. Patrick Rose, would prescribe goals for the integrated eligibility system, create an independent review team, and establish a legislative oversight committee. The bill would not address the shortage of state workers, which is perhaps the most critical challenge facing the rebuilding of the eligibility system, and neither the House nor the Senate budget includes funds to increase staff. However, both versions of the budget would give the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) the authority to increase staff in the event that HHSC decides to use fewer contractor staff when it restructures the eligibility system.

Record Number of Children Dropped From CHIP in May (05/3/2007)

Today the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) announced that 17,078 fewer children will be covered by the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in May than in April. This is the second largest number of children ever to be disenrolled in one month, second only to immediately after state budget cuts in 2003.

Analyses to Help You Prepare for the Conference Committee Budget Debate (05/1/2007)

CPPP has revised its overview of the differences between House and Senate state budget proposals for 2008 and 2009. More detailed side-by-side comparisons for Education, Protective Services, Medicaid/CHIP, Public Health, Assistive & Rehabilitative Services, and Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) are also available. Texas can afford to meet all its needs. Texas has at least $3 billion more in General Revenue that the legislature could appropriate. In addition, the legislature could redirect $1.4 billion in the House and Senate proposals that would only undo past payment deferrals. Undoing these payment deferrals has no purpose except to shelter money to pay for tax cuts after 2009. If the legislature appropriated this entire $4.4 billion to meet today's needs, Texas would still have another $4.3 billion in its Rainy Day Fund to meet an emergency of any sort.

TANF Legislative Update (04/24/2007)

We wanted to share with you the latest developments on the various Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) bills making their way through the 80th Legislature. All are scheduled to be heard this week--take action!

CPPP Statement on Tiers/IE System Recommendations (04/20/2007)

Yesterday, April 19, 2007, the Subcommittee on TIERS and Integrated Eligibility, chaired by Representative Abel Herrero and including Representative Tan Parker and Representative Bryan Hughes, presented its unanimous recommendations to the House Human Services Committee for addressing the problems in the TIERS/IE system and establishing a more efficient and effective eligibility system. The Center for Public Policy Priorities applauds the work of the subcommittee and urges the full committee to adopt its recommendations in their entirety and move quickly to incorporate the recommendations into legislation.

Testimony on CSHB 3759 (04/19/2007)

Celia Hagert provided testimony before the House Human Services Committee on CSHB 3759. CSHB 3759 would improve outcomes for families on and leaving welfare by increasing work participation rates, improving Texas' ability to help parents overcome barriers to employment, and improving the integrity and effectiveness of sanction practices.

Oppose SB 1096: Senate Likely to Vote This Week (04/18/2007)

Tomorrow, April 19, the Senate may consider SB 1096, a TANF bill that would hurt vulnerable families. We’re urging Senators to vote no on the bill and we encourage you to call your Senators with that message. SB 1861 is a much better alternative. We have also prepared a comparison of the two bills.

Texas CHIP Rolls Must Grow FAST to Avoid Losing Federal CHIP Dollars Permanently— 12-Month Coverage the Best Way (04/18/2007)

Between 2000-2006, Texas gave up over $900 million in federal CHIP dollars. Congress had designated these dollars for Texas, but because we did not spend them, they went to other states. Congress is now reauthorizing the SCHIP Block Grant, and will write new rules governing how much federal matching money Texas can receive for CHIP in the next decade. The good news for Texas is that Congress is proposing substantial new CHIP funding, designed to allow states enroll uninsured children who meet CHIP qualifications but are currently not enrolled. The bad news for Texas is that Congress is proposing to determine a state’s CHIP allocation based on how much a state is spending on CHIP in federal fiscal year (FFY) 2009. The Texas legislature must move quickly to remove barriers to CHIP enrollment growth by providing for 12-month coverage. Otherwise, our federal allocation will be permanently reduced.

Testimony on Free School Lunch and Breakfast (04/17/2007)

Celia Hagert testified on CSHB 454 before the House Education Committee. CSHB 454 relates to the provision of free lunch and breakfast to all enrolled students in certain school districts and campuses.

CSHB 3759: Improving Outcomes for Welfare Recipients (04/17/2007)

Texas is facing greater challenges meeting federal requirements in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program as a result of rules enacted by Congress in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2006 (DRA). The committee substitute for House Bill (CSHB) 3759 by Representative Elliott Naishtat would help Texas meet federal requirements while improving the outcomes for families on and leaving welfare. CSHB 3759 would increase work participation rates, improve Texas’ ability to help parents overcome barriers to employment, and improve the integrity and effectiveness of sanction practices. CSHB 3759 will be heard in the House Human Services Committee on Thursday, April 19.

Two Chances to Support Better Nutrition for Texans (04/16/2007)

The committee substitutes for House Bills 2629 (Senate companion: SB 1497 by Zaffirini) and House Bill 454 by Representative Eddie Rodriguez would improve the nutrition of low-income Texans. On April 17, CSHB 2629 has a hearing in the House Agriculture and Livestock Committee and CSHB 454 will be heard by the House Public Education Committee. Please contact the members of these committees and urge their support for these bills.

Testimony on a Pilot Program for Small Fresh Produce Retailers (04/11/2007)

Celia Hagert testified before the House Agriculture Committee on HB 2629, relating to a competitive grant pilot program for certain small retailers of fresh produce.

Comparing SB 1096 to SB 1861: Two Different Welfare-to-Work Approaches for Texas (04/9/2007)

Texas is facing greater challenges in meeting federal requirements in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program as a result of new rules enacted by Congress in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2006 (DRA). Under the new federal rules, states are required to engage more TANF recipients in approved work activities or face financial penalties to their TANF block grants. SB 1096, by Senator Kyle Janek, is an attempt to help Texas meet these requirements, but it does so at the expense of the most vulnerable families. In contrast, SB 1861, by Senator Zaffirini, would increase work participation rates, protect vulnerable families, and improve the outcomes for families on and leaving welfare. This Policy Page analyzes the impact SB 1096 would have on TANF recipients and explains why SB 1861 is the better alternative to help Texas meet the federal requirements.

Support HB 854--Lift the Lifetime Ban on Food Stamps for Drug Felons (04/2/2007)

House Bill 854 by Representative Elliott Naishtat removes the lifetime ban on Food Stamps for people convicted of a drug felony. Please urge all members of the House Human Services Committee to support HB 854.

Testimony on Immigrants and Public Benefits in Texas (03/29/2007)

Anne Dunkelberg provided invited testimony on immigrants and public benefits in Texas at an Immigration and Border Security Hearing before the House Committee on State Affairs and the House Committee on Border and International Affairs.

Testimony on the Negative Impact of Full-Family Sanctions on the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program in Texas (03/28/2007)

Celia Hagert provided invited testimony about Texas' experience with full family sanctions before Subcommittee #1 on Health & Human Services and the California Assembly Budget Committee.

Devil's in the Details: Six Essential Things Medicaid Reform Should Not Do (03/27/2007)

A number of bills aimed at making changes to Texas Medicaid are scheduled for hearings this week. While the bills as a group do include concepts with merit, there are also provisions which raise grave concerns from the perspectives of both client advocacy and fiscal responsibility. There are still opportunities to revise these bills to preserve and protect both client access to care as well as prudent stewardship of Texas taxpayer dollars. This Policy Page identifies the major themes in the bills needing revision to protect the interests of Medicaid recipients and taxpayers, and makes several recommendations.

Support HB 75: Administrative Appeal of a Denial of Food Stamps or Medicaid (03/26/2007)

On March 22, House Bill 75 by Representative Elliott Naishtat was favorably voted from the House Human Services Committee. HB 75 authorizes a person denied Food Stamps or Medicaid to appeal the decision to state court. Next, HB 75 goes to the House Calendars Committee, which must decide whether and when to schedule the bill for a vote by the full House. We are asking for your help in ensuring that HB 75 gets on the House calendar as soon as possible. Please contact all members of the House Calendars Committee today and urge them to calendar HB 75 as soon as possible.

Testimony on HB 854 – Relating to the Eligibility of and Requirements Applicable to Certain Persons for Food Stamps (03/22/2007)

The Center for Public Policy Priorities supports HB 854 by Representative Naishtat, which removes the lifetime ban on Food Stamps for people convicted of a drug felony. Food stamps are 100% federally funded and can be a lifeline to ex-offenders in their attempts to rehabilitate themselves and reintegrate into society.

A Fist Full of Dollars or A Frew Dollars More? (03/13/2007)

Wild rumors are circulating about the cost of complying with the settlement Texas agreed to in Frew v Hawkins in 1995. Some are saying Frew will require the state to identify and enroll every eligible Texas child in Medicaid (not true), or require the state to spend as much as $5 billion more annually on children in Medicaid (also not true). This Policy Page provides a brief summary of key facts about Frew and the upcoming April hearing.

CPPP Statement on Texas' Termination of Accenture Contract (03/13/2007)

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced today that it is terminating its contract with Accenture to enroll low-income Texans in critical programs, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicaid, Food Stamps, and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). The contract will officially end in November 2007. Privatization was supposed to save Texas hundreds of millions of dollars and improve services to clients through better use of technology and a more modern enrollment process.

Testimony on TANF Employment Programs and Participation in Those Programs (03/6/2007)

Celia Hagert testified before the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services on TANF employment programs and participation in those programs by certain parents who are not TANF recipients.

Testimony on the Nuts and Bolts of the Texas CHIP Coalition/Insure Texas Kids Campaign (03/1/2007)

Anne Dunkelberg delivered invited testimony before a House Committee on Human Services hearing on CHIP. She discussed ways that the legislature can build on the success of Texas Medicaid and CHIP.

Testimony on Problems Enrolling Texans in Public Benefits (02/23/2007)

Celia Hagert and Anne Dunkelberg provided invited testimony at a public hearing on problems with Texas' system for determining eligibility for public benefits, including Food Stamps, CHIP, and Medicaid.

House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services Testimony on SB 1 (02/12/2007)

Celia Hagert testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services on SB 1, General Appropriations Act for 2008-09 (HHSC). She specifically addressed HHSC’s integrated eligibility and enrollment system and the use of TANF funds in the 2008-2009 budget.

CPPP Files Letter Brief with Attorney General About Governor’s Authority (02/12/2007)

Today the center filed a letter brief with the Attorney General about the Governor’s authority to make executive orders. We filed this brief in response to a pending legislative request for the Attorney General's legal opinion on this issue.

Governor's HPV Order is Unconstitutional: Austin American-Statesman (02/7/2007)

Conservatives are complaining about the Governor’s executive order that parents must vaccinate all female children for the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) before the sixth grade. They instinctively feel that the governor has exceeded his authority. The conservatives are right. He has. This is not the first time, though. Just a little more than a year ago, the governor issued an executive order requiring elected school boards to spend 65 percent of their budgets in the classroom. Then, conservatives applauded. Both the vaccination order and the 65 percent order, however, violate the law in the same way. Under our constitution, the governor administers the law; the governor doesn’t make the law. This principle is textbook civics. Making law is for the legislature.

A New Welfare-to-Work Approach for Texas (02/5/2007)

Recent changes to the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant place new pressures on states to reduce their welfare caseloads and increase the number of families participating in work activities or face financial penalties. At the same time, the new rules make it harder for states to design effective welfare-to-work programs, particularly for those recipients who face the greatest barriers to employment. This policy brief analyzes these challenges in the context of Texas’ welfare program and proposes a set of policy changes designed to help Texas meet the federal requirements while improving outcomes for welfare recipients.

CHIP and Children’s Medicaid Briefing: Texas CHIP Coalition/Insure Texas Kids Campaign (02/1/2007)

Anne Dunkelberg, CPPP's Associate Director, teamed with Dr. Gary Floyd, President, Texas Pediatric Society; Chris Born, CEO, Texas Children’s Health Plan; and Barbara Best, Director, Children’s Defense Fund, to update staff and legislators of the 80th Legislative Session on health care issues.

Senate Finance Committee Testimony on Utility Bills (01/30/2007)

The center filed testimony with the Senate Finance Committee urging the Legislature to restore funding for the Public Utility Commission’s utility bill discount program for low-income households.

Leading National Health Care Organization Has Named CPPP's Anne Dunkelberg Consumer Health Care Advocate of the Year (01/26/2007)

Today, January 26, Families USA, a national nonprofit organization committed to affordable health care, awarded Anne Dunkelberg, Associate Director of the Austin-based Center for Public Policy Priorities, Consumer Health Care Advocate of the Year.

Texas' Challenge as Congress Reauthorizes CHIP: Federal Block Grant Funding Must Grow to Avoid Future Texas CHIP Cuts and Allow for Coverage of Eligible but not Enrolled Children (01/10/2007)

Steep caseload declines and unspent federal funds have other states eyeing Texas’ share. Congress is scheduled to debate reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP, known in Texas as CHIP) block grant in 2007. Despite strong public support for CHIP and new Congressional leadership, winning additional funding for the block grant is not expected to be easy, given the strong commitment to fiscal restraint from both sides of the aisle.

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