AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas’ Democratic Congressional Delegation is urging the federal government to take “corrective action” against the state Health and Human Services Commission, citing delays in processing food assistance applications that whistleblowers say have denied food assistance to thousands.
In a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Monday, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett and 12 other U.S. House Democrats said Texas has failed to comply with federal requirements by delaying the administration of aid under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. They said Texas has not met a 30-day requirement for states to process SNAP applications and recertification since July 2021.
The group of Texas Democrats alleges that families waited over 100 days for their applications to be assigned for review. Whistleblower employees inside the agency worry that wait could reach 200 days by the end of 2023.
KXAN has reached out to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission for comment about the letter. If a response is received, this article will be updated.
“People lose access to their food before the application gets approved,” Rep. Doggett told Nexstar. “Governor Abbott has all kinds of authority in terms of transferring state funds, helping get more employees… it wouldn’t be necessary to call in any federal authorities if the governor had accepted responsibility and done something to correct this initially.”
The Central Texas Food Bank said they have seen a 30% spike in demand since March, when pandemic-era SNAP supplements expired. They are now serving as many as 60,000 Central Texans per week.
“SNAP is really a first line of defense for families when grocery shopping. So if the average household is missing anywhere from $200 a month towards their overall household budget, there’s going to be a shortfall,” Central Texas Food Bank’s CEO Sari Vatske said. “It’s placing an incredible amount of stress on our network.”
Vatske worries the likely government shutdown will only make matters worse when federal workers are furloughed and SNAP benefits restrict.
“At a time when we need our government to step up and laser focus on passing a Farm Bill, which funds SNAP and USDA and all the other things we rely on, we really can’t afford to see a shutdown. Simply put, people are struggling to eat and that would increase,” Vatske said.
The federal program SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, helps allow low-income households to buy groceries. In Texas, eligible households use a Lone Star Card to use their SNAP benefits.
“Thousands of Texans are left without food for months as these backlogs persist and worsen,” the letter said.