PUBLIC BENEFITS: FOOD/NUTRITION
The center focuses on health care access, immigrants' access to services, food and nutrition, the state's eligibility and enrollment system, and TANF.
Recent Food/Nutrition Publications
The U.S. Senate and House Agriculture Committees have recommended a $4 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) over the next 10 years as part of the deficit reduction plan being developed in Congress. A cut of this magnitude would harm thousands of low-income Texas families who struggle to put food on the table. It would also harm the food industry, Texas agriculture, food retailers and cost jobs. Our state and local economies receive an enormous boost from SNAP spending, particularly during a recession. Last year, 3.6 million Texans received SNAP assistance, pouring over $5 billion into the economy and generating a total of $9.1 billion in overall economic activity. Low-income Texans should not be asked to bear the burden of budget cuts. Congress has smarter and fairer ways at its disposal to balance the budget and resolve our long-term deficit problem, through a balanced package of selected tax increases and careful spending cuts.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its annual report that illustrates the struggle low-income Texans face in affording a consistent and nutritious diet. The USDA report, Household Food Security in the United States in 2010, reveals that almost one in five Texas households (18.8 percent, or 1.7 million households) were food insecure between 2008 and 2010, compared to 14.6 percent of households nationwide. Over one-third of these households (6.9 percent) are classified as having very low food securityâ€"the more severe condition associated with food insecurityâ€"compared to 5.6 percent of U.S. households. Texas ranks second in the nation for the highest percentage of food insecure households, and is tied for third in the share of households experiencing very low food security.
Today, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack awarded performance bonuses to the states with the best payment accuracy rates in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) in fiscal 2010. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) earned $6.2 million in payment incentives for its performance in two categories: best payment accuracy and most improved payment accuracy. Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) Senior Policy Analyst Celia Cole released the following statement.
â€śCPPP applauds HHSC Executive Commissioner Tom Suehs for his leadership, and HHSCâ€™s frontline staff for their hard work in achieving this recognition. At 97.87 percent, Texasâ€™ payment accuracy rate was above the national average of 96.19 percent. (Payment accuracy is measured by the amount of benefits issued accurately as a share of total benefits issued.) And at 4.77 percent, Texasâ€™ tops the nation in most improved accuracy rate."
With one or more U. S. House-passed, budget-cutting proposals expected on the Senate floor for debate this week, the Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) and the Texas Food Bank Network (TFBN) say that the cuts proposed to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) would weaken the programâ€™s proven ability to help poor and hungry Texas kids and families.
CPPP supports efforts to reduce obesity and encourage Texans to pursue a healthy diet. However, we are opposed to proposals currently being debated in the Texas Legislature [House Bill (HB) 1151 and HB 3451] and the United States Congress that would restrict the use of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) benefits. These proposals have the potential to erode the value of SNAP benefits─already too little─and would weaken the programs proven ability to help the poorest and hungriest among us.
Senate Bill (SB) 1454, by Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr., and House Bill (HB) 2414, by Representative Boris Miles, seek to improve the nutritional health of Texans by exploring ways to increase access to healthy and affordable food.
The Center for Public Policy Priorities supports Senate Bill (SB) 1004, because it addresses two major challenges facing Texas: the need to fund a balanced approach to the 2012-13 budget, and the need to improve nutrition and curb obesity, which cost the state $9.5 billion in 2009. Imposing a tax on soft drinks could raise up to $4 billion over the biennium. Increasing the cost of soft drinks has been proven to discourage their consumption, which is associated with poor diet, high rates of obesity and risk for diabetes. Texas needs this additional revenue, along with dollars from the Rainy Day Fund, to minimize damaging cuts to public education, higher education, and health and human services.
House Bill (HB) 643 would ensure more children in low-income neighborhoods have access to nutritious meals during the summer. This legislation by State Representative Eddie Rodriguez would increase the number of school districts subject to a state law requiring districts in low-income communities to operate the program. The Summer Food Program provides over $52 million in federal funds each year to low-income communities in Texas to help serve nutritious meals to children in safe, enriching environments. The Summer Food Program is critical in a state like Texas, where too many children are in poor nutritional health.
Testimony: Support for HB 3397 (03/31/2011)
CPPP supports HB 3397, which would make felony drug ex-offenders eligible to receive federally funded food assistance and employment services through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps). Enabling this population to receive SNAP services would help ex-offenders to rebuild their lives and reintegrate into our communities, thereby reducing recidivism and the state cost of reincarceration. This legislation comes at a critical time for Texas, as lawmakers are considering eliminating $21.2 million for Project Rio, one of the few sources of funding for reentry services.
The House Human Services Committee will hear HB 3397 on Tuesday, March 29. HB 3397, by Representative Alma Allen would make felony drug ex-offenders eligible to receive federally funded food assistance and employment services through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps). Enabling this population to receive SNAP services would help ex-offenders to rebuild their lives and reintegrate into our communities, thereby reducing recidivism and the state cost of reincarceration. This legislation comes at a critical time for Texas, as lawmakers are considering eliminating $21.2 million for Project Rio, one of the few sources of funding for reentry services.
When finger imaging was first implemented, the eligibility determination process for food stamps was paper-based. At that time, there was no way for the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to electronically verify an applicantâ€™s identify to prevent that person from applying for benefits more than once. HHSC has since deployed the TIERS system and introduced electronic third-party verification using sources such as Data Broker and other electronic interfaces. This technology provides HHSC with more cost-effective tools to verify applicant information and confirm identify.
Celia Cole provided testimony to the House Committee on Human Services on HB 710, explaining that the finger imaging requirement for food stamps both undermines HHSCâ€™s efforts to develop more efficient eligibility and enrollment processes, and costs the state of Texas millions in crucial taxpayer dollars.
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