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State passes bill making it easier for seniors, people with disabilities to receive SNAP benefits

Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 9:01 AM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - The Texas Legislature passed State Bill 224 this week, which creates a simplified application and recertification process for those in need of SNAP benefits.

“After the year that we just came out of, where food access was a big deal, with our seniors, it’s huge,” said Zack Wislon, executive director of the High Plains Food Bank

In the past, seniors were discouraged from applying for benefits due to a certification process Wilson described as difficult.

“The application is burdensome,” said Wislon. “A lot of our seniors have expressed, [they’re] not going to really just hop online and maybe [they] don’t have access in [their] rural area to broadband.”

Wilson said the application process was particularly difficult on seniors living in rural areas.

“About 75% of our food leaves Potter and Randall County going into our rural counties,” said Wilson. “Another comment we hear is, [they] wish [we] had more, had something else to help supplement...and this bill will hopefully do that and be a tool that they can use to help move forward.”

State Bill 224 creates a shortened application process for first-time beneficiaries.

For those enrolled, the bill extends the recertificaiton time from 12 months to 36 months and eliminates the yearly interview requirement.

The bill also enacts a data-matching software that notifies medicaid beneficiaries that they are eligible for SNAP benefits.

Currently, Feeding Texas estimates 22% of Texas seniors face food insecurity and predict only about half of eligible senior citizens are enrolled in SNAP.

Wilson says he is already seeing the affects of this bill on seniors.

“At the food bank, we have been getting calls about this...they’ve heard about it and have expressed overwhelming interest,” said Wilson. “We’ve had one individual call who is a grandmother [with] custody of her grand kids and is now raising them and is struggling to put food on the table and is looking for anything that would help.”

The bill also applies to those with disabilities, who also experience difficulty applying for SNAP benefits.

“By passing this bill, we are ensuring the our most vulnerable Texans -- seniors and those with disabilities who have no earned income -- will receive the nutritional assistance they need in the most efficient manner possible,” said author of the bill, Senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock).

“The ease of use for everyone and the access to food they can get is the major win of this bill passing,” added Wilson.

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