BRAZOS COUNTY, Texas — Many households have relied on the benefits pushed out to them from the COVID-19 pandemic's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits that were extended as a part of emergency measures at the time. However, those benefits ended at the start of March.
Texas food banks are now calling on state law makers to update the SNAP vehicle asset test to further assist families in need.
Eligibility for SNAP, previously known as food stamps, is primarily based on income and family size.
Texas is one of a handful of states that uses a vehicle asset test, which places a limit on the value of the vehicles that a household may own and still qualify for the program.
Now, many families are being denied SNAP benefits because inflation has elevated the value of their assets, and not in a positive way.
“Right now, with inflation and the current economic situation everything has gone up, including the prices of new and used cars and that is putting the limits of those cars way higher than the current limit set by the commission,” said Brazos Valley Food Bank Health Promotions Manager, Morayo Suara.
Due to the value of vehicles increasing, there’s been an alarmingly large increase in the number of Texans being denied snap benefits due to the vehicle asset test, especially here in the Brazos Valley.
"In 2019 we had 105 households that were denied because of the vehicle test," said Brazos Valley Food Bank Benefits Assistance Coordinator, Mellissa Roy. "In 2022 it was 521 families.”
Food banks across Texas are asking for a test that is true to the current economic state.
“The $15,000 (threshold) was last updated in 2001, and the limit for additional vehicles was last updated in 1973, so currently the situation right now does not reflect the current situation now,” said Suara.
As a result of these standards not being updated, some Texas families have had to make life-altering decisions to keep up.
“Unfortunately because of the that and the limits they have on the eligibility there's a couple of things that families have to do. Either they have to deplete their savings, or they have to sell their vehicles, which is impossible for a lot of these families," explained Roy. "They have to be able to travel to work, take kids to school, doctors, all of these things. So vehicles are very important especially in communities that don’t have public transportation.”