Food bank pilot gives families new way to apply for SNAP
HHSC and the Texas Food Bank Network are beginning a new pilot today designed to help families get food assistance faster and reduce the workload on the state’s eligibility offices.
“I’m excited about this project,” Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Tom Suehs said. “The food banks have done a wonderful job helping us connect with Texas families for years, and this is a natural next step for both of us. It gives families another choice in how they apply for benefits, and it helps preserve community resources for people who don’t qualify for the state program.”
HHSC began contracting with the Texas Food Bank Network in 2006 to expand the assistance available to low-income Texans who needed help applying for food benefits. Under that contract, 19 Texas food banks conducted outreach about SNAP food benefits and were available to help families complete applications for the program. The food banks then delivered the completed applications to the state for processing.
The original project has been very successful. Families were able to get one-on-one assistance to help them apply for state benefits, and the state received applications that were more likely to be accurate and complete. Once the application was delivered to the state, the state worker would call the applicant to collect the information again to satisfy the federal requirement for an interview and process the case.
HHSC recently received a federal waiver for a pilot project to eliminate the redundant step in the original initiative by allowing the food bank’s work with the family to count as the interview. This helps families get food assistance faster and reduces the workload on the state.
The pilot will cover four areas – Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio – starting March 1. Food banks in other areas will continue to provide outreach and application assistance under the terms of the original initiative.
HHSC is providing additional training to the food banks on topics such as how to see if an application is eligible for expedited assistance, how to collect the required documents for the case file, and how to check on the status of an application. The food banks will send completed applications to the state using an encrypted e-mail link within three days of the file date. Applications eligible for expedited service must be sent to the state within 24 hours.
A state worker will process the application and determine if the family is eligible for benefits. If the application isn’t complete or the state worker has any questions about the information, the state worker will contact the family directly to get the additional information needed to complete the case.
Families who get help through a food bank may still choose to submit the application directly to the state. In these cases, a state worker will interview the applicant.