PUBLIC BENEFITS: ELIGIBILITY/ENROLLMENT DELIVERY


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

Recent Eligibility/Enrollment Delivery Publications

Texas' Eligibility System Continues to Fail Needy Texans (10/1/2009)

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.

Texas' Eligibility System Continues to Fail Needy Texans (10/1/2009)

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.

Federal Government Demands State Take Immediate Action to Help Struggling Texans While State Dithers, Denying HHSC Request for Critical Eligibility Staff (09/28/2009)

Austin, Texas"The Center for Public Policy Priorities today condemned the Legislative Budget Board’s (LBB) denial of a request from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to fund hundreds of new eligibility staff for our state’s overwhelmed public benefits system. The new staff would be an essential step toward fixing our system, which cannot process applications timely or accurately. LBB’s denial comes as the state faces an increased need for public safety net services during the worst economic climate in a generation, a demand by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on September 24 for immediate corrective action, and a private class-action lawsuit against the state for failure to meet federal Food Stamp timeliness standards.

Texas' Eligibility System Continues to Fail Needy Texans (09/28/2009)

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.

Texas' Eligibility System Continues to Fail Needy Texans (09/28/2009)

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.

Congress Must Not Leave Any Wounded American Worker on the Economic Battlefield (09/3/2009)

If the First Infantry suffered 9 percent wounded, while the Second Infantry suffered “only” 7.9 percent, sending medicine to the First Infantry, but not the Second, would make no sense. Every wounded soldier deserves help. And, if the Second Infantry is bigger than the First, sending help to the Second would be even more important to the strength of the army. Yet, HR 3404 (McDermott) and S 1647 (Reed) propose to trigger an additional 13 weeks of critically important Emergency Unemployment Compensation for unemployed American workers based upon state unemployment rates. Unemployed workers in 28 states, including Texas, would not get help because of state rates below the trigger. This approach is unfair to American workers and counterproductive for the national economy. Congress should help workers in all states equally.

Keep Rider to Use Federal Recovery Funds for 12-Month Children's Medicaid in 2010-2011 Budget, At No Cost to the Bill (05/8/2009)

Conferees deciding the final form of the Texas state budget for 2010-2011 must decide whether or not to keep alive House Rider 52 in Article II, Special Provisions Relating to all HHS agencies, which funds 12-month children’s Medicaid only in 2010-2011, while additional Medicaid funding is available from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Food Stamp Bills Waiting to be Scheduled for a Floor Vote in House (04/30/2009)

Three bills by Rep. Naishtat relating to the Food Stamp Program passed the House Human Services Committee and have been sent to the House Calendars Committee to be scheduled for a vote by the full House: HB 1627, HB 612, and HB 886. These bills are designed to maximize federal food assistance to low-income Texans and/or reduce the workload of the eligibility staff who process Food Stamp applications. We urge you to call the members of the House Calendars Committee today and ask them to schedule these bills for a vote as soon as possible.

Comparing Medicaid and CHIP Provisions in Texas House Appropriations Committee and Senate Budget Proposals (04/16/2009)

The Texas Senate approved its version of a 2010-2011 state budget bill, and the full House is expected to debate the House Appropriations Committee’s version of the bill this Friday, April 17 (supplemental appropriations will be debated the day before). Complications caused by the recession and the federal recovery funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) compound the usual challenge of understanding the chambers’ competing funding proposals for Medicaid, CHIP and other health care-related programs. This Policy Page highlights key differences between the chambers’ Medicaid and CHIP proposals, plus selected other health care issues and items missing in both bills.

Comments Due April 20 on HHSC Application Redesign (04/9/2009)

The Health and Human Services Commission is redesigning the application for Medicaid, Food Stamps and TANF to make it easier to read, understand and fill out. HHSC has invited stakeholders to provide feedback on the new application and is conducting focus groups around the state to get feedback from clients. A web phone conference to answer questions and share focus group findings is scheduled for April 13 at 2 p.m. Comments are due April 20.

HB 3859 Would Establish Prerequisites for TIERS Expansion and Require Staffing Analysis (04/8/2009)

The House Human Services Committee will hear HB 3859 on Thursday, April 9. HB 3859 would ensure adequate staffing of the health and human services eligibility system and prevent premature expansion of TIERS, the computer system that the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) has been piloting since 2003.

HB 613 Would Increase Participation in the Food Stamp Program and Reduce the Workload of Eligibility Staff (04/8/2009)

The House Human Services Committee will hear HB 613 on Thursday, April 9. The bill would increase participation in the Food Stamp Program and improve the performance of the eligibility system by simplifying the Food Stamp enrollment process. HB 613 directs the Health and Human Services Commission to exercise the option in federal law to lengthen certification periods for Food Stamp recipients and reduce unnecessary interview requirements. This Policy Page explains the options available to states to simplify Food Stamp enrollment and summarizes the arguments for adopting these changes to Food Stamp policy in Texas.

SB 841 by Averitt: CHIP "Buy-In" Program
for Uninsured Children Above 200% of Poverty
(04/2/2009)

More than half a million uninsured Texas children have incomes above the current limits for CHIP. In addition, children often fall off of the "CHIP cliff," losing their CHIP coverage when their parents' incomes increase by a small amount, even though those earnings are still too low to purchase private coverage. Texas families turn down raises and cut back work hours just to keep their children covered. Through a CHIP buy-in option, SB 841 by Sen. Averitt keeps families from having to choose between slightly more income or their children's health care. SB 841 has a first hearing April 2 in the Senate Finance Committee. This Policy Page describes the bill, including important details of the expected Committee Substitute.

Action Needed to Help Unemployed Texans Access Health Insurance Assistance in the Recovery Act (03/30/2009)

Only half of Texans get health insurance coverage through an employer"one of the lowest rates in the nation. Access to employer-sponsored health insurance will decline as the recession deepens and companies cut jobs. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (federal economic recovery act) includes a temporary COBRA and state continuation premium reduction to help recently unemployed workers and their families maintain private health insurance coverage while they seek new jobs. However, the Texas Legislature must make modest change to our state insurance laws to help Texans losing job-based coverage maximize federal premium assistance. These changes, which require no state general revenue dollars, will help more Texans keep private health insurance and prevent some Texans from joining the growing ranks of the uninsured.

The Texas Recovery Plan (03/25/2009)

Public structures such as Medicaid, Food Stamps, and Unemployment Insurance were created to help families in tough economic times and to help the economy recover from a down cycle. These are indeed tough times"we face the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Tragically, many Texans are becoming aware for the first time of the crumbling nature of many of our public structures, weakened by years of neglect when times were good. Now that times are tough, we find our systems unprepared. Fortunately, though, the new federal economic recovery law makes resources available to help repair and improve these systems, which will in turn energize economic activity and get Texas on the road to recovery.

But, Texas will only get the federal funds"and the needed improvements to our public structures"if state policymakers make the right choices, soon.

Food Stamp Bills Would Maximize Federally Funded Food Assistance to Needy Texans (03/24/2009)

The House Human Services Committee will hear two Food Stamp bills on Thursday, March 26, that would maximize federal funding to provide food assistance for needy Texans. HB 1627 would use the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LiHEAP) program to maximize Food Stamp benefits for currently eligible families. HB 612 would eliminate the current ban on Food Stamps for drug felons. This Policy Page explains these bills and summarizes the arguments for adopting these changes to Food Stamp policy in Texas.

Modernizing the Vehicle Asset Test (HB 1625): CPPP Testimony to the House Committee on Human Services (03/19/2009)

Reliable means of transportation are essential for families trying to get to and from work, and they are especially important for out-of-work Texans trying to find employment. Current asset tests for determining eligibility for public benefits unfairly penalize Texan families for owning reliable means of transportation. CPPP staff recently offered testimony in support of updating Texas' asset tests to ensure that needy individuals and families get the help they need and still have transportation.

Fixing the Crisis in Our Eligibility System (03/9/2009)

Texas’ broken eligibility and enrollment system cannot handle current demand, much less growing needs with rising unemployment. The Legislature can solve this crisis. First, it must fund the Health and Human Services Commission’s request for $134 million in additional general revenue for the staff needed to improve eligibility system performance. Second, it should adopt 12-months continuous coverage for children on Medicaid, which would greatly reduce the current backlogs in application processing and allow the system to operate competently with fewer staff. The federal economic recovery package provides funds to pay for these additional staff and for 12-months continuous eligibility for children’s Medicaid. This paper makes the case for fixing the crisis in our eligibility system and suggests steps you can take to ensure these priorities are funded in the 2010-11 budget.

Article II - HHSC: Testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services (02/26/2009)

The Legislature must fully fund HHSC Exceptional Items 2 and 3 to provide additional staff for the eligibility system. The demand for services is already on the rise and will only increase as the full effects of the recession hit Texas. Without adequate staff, HHSC cannot provide timely and accurate benefits to eligible families. The delay or inappropriate denial or termination of benefits not only causes great hardship to needy Texans; it also causes the state to lose out on critical federal funds for Food Stamps and Medicaid that boost our state and local economies. The Legislature should also use a portion of the biennial balance in TANF block grant funds to increase cash assistance to extremely poor families and help them weather the economic recession. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) includes an Emergency Contingency Fund that would reimburse Texas for 80% of this increased TANF spending.

Article II -- HHSC: Testimony to the Senate Finance Committee (02/16/2009)

The Legislature must fully fund HHSC Exceptional Items #2 and 3# to provide additional staff for the eligibility system. The demand for services is already on the rise and will only increase as the full effects of the recession hit Texas. Without adequate staff, HHSC cannot provide timely and accurate benefits to eligible families. The delay or inappropriate denial or termination of benefits not only causes great hardship to needy Texans. It also causes the state to lose out on critical federal funds for Food Stamps and Medicaid that boost our state and local economies.

Federal Economic Recovery Legislation and Texas (02/13/2009)

Today, Congress released the details of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which provides $789 billion to stimulate the economy. Many of these measures will also help protect vulnerable Texans during this economic downturn. To take full advantage of the benefits in the recovery package and set our economy on the road to recovery, Texas must plan immediately. We applaud Speaker Joe Straus for appointing the Select Committee on Federal Economic Stabilization Funding, charged with monitoring federal action and suggesting to standing committees needed steps to qualify for federal economic recovery funds. This paper summarizes the portions of the bill that affect the state budget.

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