TYLER, Texas — Governor Greg Abbott announced another gesture Friday to help the people who are struggling the most during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In a press release, the governor announced that all Texas households whose Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits were to expire in July or August were automatically renewed for an additional six months.
The waiver was approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"The State of Texas is committed to ensuring families have access to nutritious food throughout the COVID-19 pandemic," Gov. Abbott said in a statement. "By extending automatic SNAP renewals and temporarily waiting interview requirements, we will ensure more Texans have healthy meals for their families. I thank our federal partners for their continuous support as we respond to COVID-19."
SNAP is the federal food assistance program. It is operated by each state and in Texas, the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) maintains the program and deposits the money on users' debit cards.
If a person's income falls below a certain level, SNAP provides money to spend on groceries. People can get more money or less depending on how much they earn and how many people are in their household. According to HHSC, the average adult with no children can receive up to three months of benefits in a three year period, but the amount of time also varies based on an applicant's circumstances.
Recipients are usually required to prove they are either working, looking for work, or enrolled in a school or job-training program. Applicants are typically required to interview with the state, but Friday's announcement includes a waiver of that requirement.
"As we continue to fight against COVID-19," HHS Access and Eligibility Services Deputy Executive Commissioner Wayne Salter said, "these automatic renewals provide food security and peace of mind to families in need during this unprecedented time. Waiving interviews also reinforces that it is important to stay home when possible to minimize potential exposure to COVID-19."
Gov. Abbott said the announcement would affect 276,000 families that had not yet filed their renewal paperwork.
In June, nearly 4 million Texans relied on SNAP in order to get enough to eat, an increase of nearly 20% from February, before the pandemic began.
According to HHSC, the average family received $266. That number should increase in July because the state got approval to provide the maximum benefit to all families, which will boost the amount received for nearly a million families.