SB 224 simplifies the SNAP certification and recertification requirements for households comprised of senior citizens or individuals with disabilities
SB 224, authored by Texas State Senator Charles Perry and sponsored by Rep. Armando Walle, became law yesterday after being signed by Governor Greg Abbott.
The legislation creates a simplified certification and recertification process for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants who are senior citizens and/or people with disabilities living on fixed incomes. The simplified requirements include the waiving of the recertification interview, a shortened application form with simplified verification requirements, and a 36-month enrollment period after each certification and recertification. The bill also enacts a data-matching program to notify eligible Medicaid beneficiaries that they are eligible to enroll in SNAP.
Before the pandemic, Texas had the fifth-highest rate of senior food insecurity in the nation, with 11% of Texas seniors at risk for hunger. While the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are still being felt, this figure is likely to have doubled. The state also has some of the lowest rates of senior participation in SNAP. Due to barriers in the application process, only half of the roughly 500,000 income-eligible Texas seniors are enrolled in SNAP.
“By passing this bill, we are ensuring that our most vulnerable Texans — seniors and people with disabilities who have no earned income — will receive the nutritional assistance they need in the most efficient manner possible,” said Senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), the bill’s author. “This bill will also ensure that we are making the best possible use of taxpayer dollars by establishing more efficient reverification procedures for factors like senior status and disability status, which do not change.”
“SNAP is a proven and effective tool for helping our seniors and people with disabilities fight hunger,” said Rep. Armando Walle (D-Houston), the House champion for the bill. “This bill is a critical step in ensuring the SNAP program is run accurately and efficiently while getting necessary resources to vulnerable Texans.”
The new law will take effect on September 1, 2021.
“Difficulty applying online and complex documentation requirements have been barriers to SNAP for far too long,” said Celia Cole, Chief Executive Officer of Feeding Texas, the statewide network of food banks that was instrumental in the law’s passage. “Our state is grappling with one of the highest rates of senior food insecurity in the country, and this common-sense law will drive down those numbers. We applaud all supporters of this bill in the Texas Legislature who have taken action to make sure nutrition assistance is accessible for vulnerable Texans experiencing food insecurity.”
Tusk Philanthropies, the family foundation of venture capitalist and political strategist Bradley Tusk, supported Feeding Texas in this legislative effort. To date, Tusk Philanthropies has helped secure a combined $826 million in federal and state funding to guarantee meals to over 5.6 million children across the country.
“We know nutrition benefits programs historically leave seniors and those with disabilities at the frays, even though they’re among the most vulnerable,” said Tusk. “Far too many seniors and people with disabilities are driven away from SNAP by the complicated, burdensome application process and requirements to stay in the program. I want to thank Governor Abbott, Representative Armando Walle, and Senator Charles Perry for stepping up to address the challenges of senior food insecurity. This is a critical moment in ensuring that no Texan is left behind in the fight against hunger.”
About Feeding Texas
Feeding Texas, a member of Feeding America, is a statewide network of food banks leading a unified effort to end hunger in Texas. Their goal is to ensure access to adequate, nutritious food for all Texans, improve the health and financial stability of the communities they serve, and engage all stakeholders in advocating for hunger solutions. Feeding Texas works to educate legislative leaders on the realities of food insecurity and provide state and federal elected officials with critical data, timely analysis, and proven hunger solutions. They work on a statewide level to protect and expand federal and state nutrition, health, and economic opportunity programs to make sure that no Texan goes hungry.
About Tusk Philanthropies
Tusk Philanthropies is focused on making sure that people who are hungry have enough food to eat, and on fixing our democracy by making it exponentially easier to vote. Ensuring people have access to food is an immediate problem that the organization addresses every year by funding, developing, and managing legislative campaigns to expand and strengthen access to nutrition programs like Breakfast After the Bell, Universal School Meals, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Tusk Philanthropies has supported legislative efforts for nutrition programs in Arizona, California, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Washington. To learn more, visit tuskphilanthropies.com.