Food stamp backlogs could cost Texas

January 20, 2010 3:11:04 PM PST
Thousands of Texas families who qualify for food stamps are not getting the help they need and now there is a risk that if the state doesn't get them approved, Texas could lose millions of dollars to help them. Rules require food stamp applications to be processed within 30 days. But for about half of the applicants in Texas, that isn't happening. In fact, federal money that isn't used may be sent to other states. So for Texas, that could be a billion dollar problem.

If you're out of work or unable to work in Texas, you can apply for food stamp assistance. But in Texas there are problems -- enough to rank the state last nationally in food assistance. After months of applying without results, Lisa Granshaw thinks she's part of the reason for that ranking.

"I don't have money for food," she said. "I'm struggling right now. I just need some assistance, that's all."

Dr. Bob Sanborn with the group Children at Risk said, "Forty-five percent of those families that are hungry are not getting food stamps. We're not doing the job of getting to those 45 percent of families that are eligible for food stamps."

On Tuesday, advocacy groups and Houston city council members called on the state to streamline applications. The money for food has already been allocated by the federal government. The state approves the food stamp applications. But the logjam is also said to be costing the economy.

"In Texas, this slowdown, all of the factors combined, are resulting in a net loss to the state of about one billion dollars in food purchasing power," said Brian Greene with the Houston Food Bank.

The state has hired more case workers and staff, but they face a huge backlog and packed offices of families who need help. Now a chorus of local leaders is joining in the call for improvement.

"Bottom line, other states are doing better. Texas needs to do better as well," said one leader.