Former Drug Offenders Gain Access to Food Assistance

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Rachel Cooper

As of September 1, Texans with a felony drug conviction in their past are now potentially eligible to receive food assistance benefits thanks to the passage of SB 200 during the 84th Legislature. The new law ends Texas’ old policy of permanently disqualifying anyone with a felony drug conviction that occurred after August 22, 1996 from receiving assistance under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, sometimes called “food stamps”).

There are no hard numbers on how many newly eligible people can now apply for SNAP, but CPPP has long advocated for changing the policy as it denied food assistance not only to those recently released and struggling to get back on their feet, but also to Texans who had long ago served their time. Most states that had denied food assistance to drug felons have since eliminated those restrictions; Texas was one of the last holdouts.

While prior felony drug convictions are no longer considered when applying for SNAP, SB 200 requires the following penalties for individuals who have a felony drug conviction on or after September 1, 2015:

  • Individuals are not eligible for SNAP for two years if they have a felony drug conviction on or after September 1, 2015 and violate parole or community supervision.
  • Individuals who are receiving SNAP and have an additional, subsequent felony drug conviction are permanently not eligible for SNAP.

With more people becoming eligible for SNAP, here’s a FAQ with some helpful contact information:

I submitted my SNAP application and completed my interview prior to September 1, 2015. Will I be eligible for SNAP if a worker completes my application after September 1, 2015?

Individuals with a felony drug conviction are potentially eligible for SNAP benefits if they completed an application on or after September 1, 2015. If they completed the application before September 1, 2015, then the individual can reapply or call 2-1-1 to request to be added to an existing SNAP case (meaning children or other household members are receiving benefits) to receive benefits.

I am on a SNAP case because my family members or children receive SNAP, but I do not receive SNAP benefits. Can I now receive SNAP benefits?

Individuals with a felony drug conviction who are on an existing SNAP case can receive SNAP on or after September 1, 2015 by calling 2-1-1 to request to be added to the SNAP case and receive benefits.

I am currently denied for both SNAP and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) due to my felony drug conviction. Will I be eligible for both programs if I reapply?

The permanent disqualification for felony drug conviction is ended only for SNAP. Individuals with a felony drug conviction that occurred on or after April 1, 2002 are not eligible for TANF.

How can I submit an application for SNAP?

Individuals may submit applications or renewal forms for SNAP:

At the Center for Public Policy Priorities, we believe in a Texas that offers everyone the chance to compete and succeed in life. We envision a Texas where everyone is healthy, well-educated, and financially secure. We want the best Texas - a proud state that sets the bar nationally by expanding opportunity for all. CPPP is an independent public policy organization that uses data and analysis to advocate for solutions that enable Texans of all backgrounds to reach their full potential. We dare Texas to be the best state for hard-working people and their families.

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