Photo courtesy El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank
Wednesday afternoon, El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank and the organization’s Anti-Hunger Advocates urged state legislators to address what they term as an ‘outdated policy’ barring Texans from accessing food assistance if they own more than one reliable vehicle.
“The reality of our society in El Paso and across our nation is that people regardless of income require reliable transportation in and it is shortsighted to force people to choose between reliable transportation and food.” said Susan Goodell, CEO of El Pasoans Fighting Hunger.
“Individuals and families rely heavily on their vehicles to get to and from work and school. It is simply unconscionable that as people continue to struggle with the devastating effects of the pandemic, that they be placed in a position that will only worsen their struggles.”
Texas’ “vehicle asset test” denies Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to otherwise eligible families if the value of their vehicles significantly exceeds a threshold that has not been updated for decades.
Food bank officials say that the policy requires state workers to determine vehicle values for every SNAP applicant, and disproportionately denies eligibility to two-parent households as well as families seeking or maintaining employment.
Officials add that there is no federal requirement for states to have a vehicle asset test, thirty-five states have abolished it altogether.
Texas’ State Legislature is reviewing HB 1230, a bill by Representative Lina Ortega, that would modify the practice in light of the economic challenges now faced by so many Texas families.
“The visual of so many cars lining up for food has been a wake-up call for policy-makers,” said Celia Cole, CEO of Feeding Texas. “Owning vehicles that help you get to work and bring the kids to school shouldn’t be a barrier to accessing help when you need it most.”
Food banks across the state have seen a dramatic increase in hunger due to COVID-19. Many have responded by organizing mass distributions characterized by the sight of thousands of cars queuing for aid.
The pandemic has intensified America’s hunger crisis like never before. Officials share that now is the time to modernize what they say are “outdated and arbitrary policies that bar individuals and families from critical safety net programs such as SNAP.”