By Jeanie Donovan
During the 2013 legislative session, legislators filed 26 bills related to SNAP (formerly the food stamp program). Although SNAP is 100 percent federally funded, state lawmakers do have the ability to make administrative changes to the program. Of the filed bills, only two were sent to the governor to sign into law.
SNAP is our state’s most effective and efficient safety net program. Through the recent recession, SNAP worked, as intended, to reduce food insecurity and increase economic stability of our most vulnerable citizens. We were pleased that members of the 2013 Texas Legislature largely recognized the importance of SNAP and were committed to ensuring that SNAP continues to play this crucial role.
What was in the SNAP bills?
Eight of the bills focused on changing what SNAP recipients purchase with their benefits by:
- Creating incentives for healthy purchases (3)
- Supporting nutrition education opportunities for SNAP clients (2)
- Placing restrictions on SNAP-eligible grocery items (3)
Eight of the bills focused on changing the criteria or process for determining SNAP eligibility in order to:
- Make the criteria and process for SNAP eligibility determination more equitable and efficient (6)
- Make the criteria more stringent and reduce the number of individuals eligible to receive SNAP benefits (2)
Seven of the bills sought to alter internal processes at the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) related to the state administration of SNAP through measures such as:
- Changing the authorities and duties of the HHSC Office of Inspector General
- Requiring HHSC to conduct an annual study and report regarding asset information of SNAP applicants
- Requiring the Department of Public Safety to share driver’s license application information with HHSC
The three remaining bills pertained to SNAP retailers’ advertising practices, SNAP benefit calculation, and SNAP information as a reentry resource for Texas inmates.
What SNAP bills were sent to the governor?
- HB 3401 requires HHSC to work with community-based organizations to encourage SNAP recipients to access existing online information and programs that provide nutrition and wellness education and promote healthy eating habits. HHSC is required to report to the legislature on the use and effectiveness of nutrition and wellness education information provided on HHSC’s website, based on feedback from clients.
- HB 3787 requires the Department of Public Safety to share driver’s license application information, including social security number, with HHSC for the purpose of SNAP eligibility determination. The bill is intended streamline information sharing between the agencies in order to ensure accuracy of program eligibility determinations made by HHSC.
CPPP registered in support of HB 3401 and was neutral on HB 3787.
Now that the regular legislative session has wrapped up, our food policy team will focus on working with HHSC staff in the interim to find ways to further improve SNAP administration in Texas.