FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Cynthia Martinez, Communications Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 512.374.2764
AUSTIN, Texas – June 8, 2010 – Texas’s food stamp program illegally dissuades low-income residents from applying for much needed help and keeps qualified hungry families from getting the aid they need in a timely manner, according to new court documents filed in a lawsuit against the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC).
Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA), Lone Star Legal Aid, and Legal Aid of Northwest Texas are representing more than fifty low-income Texans and five nonprofit organizations in arguing that the Texas food stamp system violates numerous state laws that keep hungry families from receiving assistance. The new arguments come as part of a lawsuit filed by TRLA in December related to the state’s failure to process food stamp applications within the state-mandated thirty-day guidelines.
According to the document, Texas law designates that the food stamp system be maintained so that resources are widely distributed among those in need. But HHSC officials have adopted policies that result in only half of qualified Texas families receiving food aid.
“Texas loses more than $1 billion in revenue each year because the system doesn’t reach the people it needs to help,” said TRLA Executive Director David Hall. “The application process purposefully dissuades hungry families from applying for the aid they desperately need.”
The legal aid organizations are also arguing that not only are application decisions required within thirty days, but state law requires eligible families begin receiving aid by day thirty – another deadline the state is failing to meet. In addition, HHSC fails to assist families in the application process, fails to notify current recipients of deadlines related to their recertification for benefits, fails to let applicants know what requirements are associated with their application, and fails to maintain a phone system that allows hungry Texans to reach agency representatives to discuss their application.
Added Hall, “Every step in this system hurts hungry Texas families. If the process isn’t discouraging people from applying, it’s stalling their applications, losing their documents, or failing to give them much-needed information.”
A copy of the latest legal filing can be downloaded online at www.trla.org/press/docs/fstnew.pdf. Families needing help with their food stamp applications are encouraged to contact Texas RioGrande Legal Aid on their food stamp hotline at 1-866-757-1570.
Established in 1970, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. (TRLA) is a nonprofit organization that provides free civil legal services to low-income and disadvantaged clients in a 68-county service area. TRLA’s mission is to promote the dignity, self-sufficiency, safety and stability of low-income Texas residents by providing high-quality civil legal assistance and related educational services.