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Food Bank Calls On Texas Legislators To Update Test That Penalizes Needy For Having More Than 1 Vehicle

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - The Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB) is urging state legislators to address what they call an "outdated" policy that bars Texans from getting food assistance if they own more than one reliable vehicle.

The "vehicle asset test" in Texas refuses SNAP benefits to otherwise eligible families if the value of their cars significantly exceeds a certain threshold. Officials with the food bank say the baseline hasn't been updated in decades.

The policy requires state workers to determine vehicle values for every SNAP applicant. And according to the TAFB, that assessment "disproportionately denies two-parent households as well as families seeking or maintaining employment."

food bank distribution
Volunteers load cars with poultry, vegetables and other items during a food distribution event. (credit: Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

There is no federal requirement for states to have a vehicle asset test. Thirty-five states have abolished it altogether.

"Reliable transportation, often personal vehicles, are essential for families to access jobs and nutritious food," said TAFB President and CEO Julie Butner. "This is especially true in communities where the nearest grocery store is not within walking distance and public transportation is not readily available."

As it stands, Texas' state legislature is reviewing HB 1230, a bill that would modify the practice considering the economic challenges now faced by so many Texas families.

Food banks across Texas have seen a dramatic increase in those seeking assistance due to COVID-19.

"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."

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