Why new rules for food stamps aren’t expected to have major impact in Texas

HOUSTON – The Trump administration’s changes to the federal food stamp program could result in nearly 700,000 people losing access, due to work requirements.

Even though the change, which takes effect April 1, is not expected to have a major impact on Houston or Harris County, the Houston Food Bank has some concerns about the new rules.

Here’s what you need to know.

Why won’t Texas be impacted?

Texas already has stringent work requirements when it comes to qualifying for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. An able-bodied person, between 18 and 49 years old, must work at least 30 hours a week or 20 hours a week if the person is a student.

In Houston and Harris County, where nearly 600,000 people are using food stamps, there isn’t expected to be an immediate impact. It’s all about battling perception, at least in the short run, according to the Houston Food Bank.

“The biggest impact that this news is going to have is that it’s going to create fear where it doesn’t need to be, said Mayra Loera, of the Houston Food Bank. “The biggest impact that I can see this having is that if in the future there is an economic downturn, if there’s a crisis in place, we will not have access to the waiver.”

What’s changing?

States will now be limited in exempting able-bodied adults from having to maintain a job in order to receive those benefits in areas where unemployment is high. The last time Harris County had to utilize that waiver was in 2012.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Thursday that he joined several other mayors from across the country in signing a letter back in August that opposed the food stamp cuts.

“I’m very sensitive to the families who need the assistance at that moment in time," Turner said. "I would hope that other people who are in a better position would be sensitive to those who are in a less fortunate position.”

Where can people get more information?

Those with questions about SNAP benefits or who need help navigating the application process are encouraged to call the Houston Food Bank’s helpline at 832-369-9390.

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