Growing SNAP applications backlog leaves El Paso families waiting on food stamps

Whistleblowers in Texas have sounded the alarm on SNAP application delays since August, however some candidates are nonetheless waiting months to obtain their food stamps.

More than 136,000 low-income individuals in El Paso County are eligible for food advantages from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, in response to March information.

Recipients obtain a set quantity of month-to-month advantages on a card they will use to purchase groceries at any retailer that accepts SNAP. In basic, individuals need to renew their advantages twice a yr by offering documentation that determines if they’re nonetheless eligible.

Federal regulation requires states to course of SNAP applications, together with renewals, and problem advantages to these eligible inside 30 days.

In March, Texas processed 61% of all applications and 59% of all renewals in a well timed method – a declining rate since September 2023, when Congressional leaders, together with U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar of El Paso, urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to resolve the delays.

More: El Paso man to be sentenced for role in Jan 6. Capitol riot in Washington DC

El Paso food financial institution assists families with SNAP delays

The El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank has workers who assist individuals expedite their delayed SNAP applications. A employees member will sit with the applicant and name 211, the statewide telephone quantity for social providers.

April Rosales, social providers web site supervisor on the food financial institution, stated within the fall the nonprofit obtained 10 or extra individuals every week asking about their months-long SNAP delays. That quantity has now dwindled all the way down to about two to 3 individuals every week.

The escalation course of has been smoother, Rosales stated.

Previously after calling 211, an operator would inform them to both fill out a brand new utility or proceed waiting. Now an operator will verify if the applying has probably the most up-to-date paperwork and expedite the case. Oftentimes an applicant has to submit a brand new pay stub as a result of their utility has sat within the queue lengthy sufficient that the beforehand submitted pay stub is now outdated, Rosales stated.

Applicants sometimes get accredited inside every week after the escalation and obtain advantages retroactive to the date the applying was submitted. The retroactive advantages is why she tries to keep away from re-filing an utility, Rosales stated.

SNAP, Medicaid delays are ongoing

Anonymous workers on the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the state company that administers the federal SNAP program, warned state lawmakers and Gov. Greg Abbott that delays had been exceeding six months on the finish of the yr.

Jennifer Ruffcorn, a spokesperson for Texas HHSC, stated in an electronic mail that “lead time is higher than normal” due to a rise in SNAP applications and the renewal course of for six million Medicaid shoppers over the course of 12 months.

The variety of SNAP applications and renewals in Texas have risen by tens of hundreds since September, with the company processing greater than 200,000 applications and renewals in March, in response to state information.

Texas HHSC can also be tasked with the method of eradicating ineligible individuals from Medicaid after the expiration of a federal pandemic rule that allowed individuals to stay enrolled in Medicaid throughout the public well being emergency. Before the rule ended on March 31, 2023, states couldn’t take away individuals from the medical health insurance program.

The effort to redetermine individuals’s eligibility led to almost 1.7 million Texans losing their health insurance by the tip of 2023, largely due to procedural causes, The Texas Tribune reported. It additionally created a backlog in SNAP applications.

More: El Paso man to be sentenced for role in Jan 6. Capitol riot in Washington DC

Texas tries to handle SNAP applications backlog

Ruffcorn stated Texas HHSC has used federal funding to put money into recruitment and retention of staff who decide advantages eligibility. More than 97% of eligibility employee positions have been stuffed, she wrote in an electronic mail.

Last yr, Texas HHSC submitted a “Corrective Action Plan” to the USDA outlining issues and fixes over the previous couple of years. The company didn’t present the plan to El Paso Matters, nor specify which options it had already carried out.

The Austin American-Statesman and KXAN Austin reported in December 2023 that the plan included transferring 250 employees members from different initiatives into processing SNAP and different advantages applications. The company would additionally ship 600 new employees to Medicaid coaching to quicken the method for mixed SNAP and Medicaid applications.

Disclosure: El Paso Matters CEO Robert Moore is the board chair for El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank. The newsroom’s coverage on editorial independence could be discovered here.

This article initially appeared on El Paso Times: Texas struggles to process increase in SNAP applications

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