Texas' Eligibility System Continues to Fail Needy Texans

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Celia Cole /(512) 320-0222 x110

October 1, 2009

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Texas’ short-staffed eligibility system for safety net programs continues to struggle to provide accurate and timely service to needy Texans seeking assistance in feeding and caring for their families. The 81st Legislature took some baby steps to address this crisis, including mandating a staffing analysis, but failed to provide adequate staff or resources to improve the system’s performance. Serious and widespread delays in processing Food Stamp applications resulted in the filing of a federal lawsuit in July against the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) for failure to meet the application processing timeframes required by federal law. The lack of adequate numbers of trained staff also has caused Food Stamp/SNAP error rates to soar, which could cost Texas millions in federal sanctions. This Policy Page discusses these developments and the actions needed to fix the crisis in our eligibility system.