The Vehicle Asset Test Prevents Hungry Texans from Getting SNAP Benefits

Earlier this year, Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB) has participated in multiple Days of Action with Feeding Texas to help increase Texans’ access to SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. This program, formerly known as food stamps, is the source of millions of meals for low-income or families in unstable or crisis situations.

SNAP is our nation’s first line of defense against hunger and a means-tested program, meaning that applicants must have income below a certain level to qualify for assistance. The average length of time that a household is on SNAP is 8 to 10 months. SNAP benefits are 100% federally funded, and states pay roughly half the cost of administering the program. Eligibility for SNAP is based on household size, income, citizenship status, and other factors. 

Now arrives the problem: Texas also uses a Vehicle Asset Test to determine SNAP eligibility, which is a limit placed on the value of the vehicles that a household may own and still qualify for the program. The current limits are $15,000 for the first vehicle and $4,650 for the second or any additional vehicles. If an applicant’s total assets exceed this limit, they do not qualify for food assistance. 

The following are simple ways to join TAFB and Feeding Texas‘s effort to increase SNAP benefits for car owners.

Educate yourself.

The Problem with the Vehicle Asset Test:

  • The current limits are outdated. The $15,000 limit was set in 2001, and the $4,650 limit was set in 1973.
  • With the second vehicle’s limit set so low, this policy disqualifies many two-parent households from accessing SNAP.
  • It jeopardizes people’s ability to work. The Vehicle Asset Test prevents people from qualifying for SNAP and owning a reliable vehicle to get to work.
  • It keeps SNAP from being able to respond to a crisis. When the pandemic hit, many people lost their jobs instantly. But thousands of families were unable to access SNAP because they owned cars above the vehicle asset limits.

The Solution

  • Representative Ortega is putting forth a committee substitute for HB 1230 that would raise the Vehicle Asset Test limit to $25,000 per vehicle and index that value to inflation.
  • Texans like us must demand the Vehicle Asset Test in SNAP reflect the actual cost of vehicles today.

Make them listen.

The first step to change is raising your voice. If you’ve never contacted a Representative or Senator before, click here to enter your address or county and learn to whom you should reach out. Once armed with that knowledge, call or email the representatives in your area and let them know how critical the SNAP bill is to organizations like Tarrant Area Food Bank and the older adults in Texas. For more information on the Vehicle Asset Test bill, its impact and its significance, click here for a flyer.

Better yet, we have a pre-written message you can send once you fill in your name and details:

 

Dear [Name of Legislator/Staff Person],

 

My name is [Your Name] and I am a constituent in your district. I care deeply about hunger, because I [insert reason here, such as working at a food bank or other anti-hunger organization or your lived experience of hunger].

 

I am writing to encourage Representative [Name of Legislator] to support HB 1230. The forthcoming committee substitute for HB 1230 will modernize the Vehicle Asset Test in determining Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility. The Vehicle Asset Test places a limit on the value of the vehicles a household may own and still qualify for the program, but the last time the current limits were updated was 20 years ago. This policy disproportionately impacts two-parent households and jeopardizes Texan’s ability to travel to work.  [Insert additional context about how members of your community rely on vehicles.]

 

Attached to this email is a one-pager that provides additional information about the Vehicle Asset Test and how it keeps many food insecure families from accessing food assistance. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions.

 

Please support HB 1230 to update the Vehicle Asset Test in SNAP and reflect the actual cost of vehicles today. Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

 

Tell your friends.

These days, you’d be hard pressed to know anyone who doesn’t have social media. Taking to the the Internet to tell your friends and family about the Vehicle Asset Test bill will show solidarity with your neighbors who rely on or should qualify for SNAP benefits. Simply start by sharing this article, or borrow a message from us:

  • SNAP recipients shouldn’t have to choose between owning a car and having enough to eat. Tell the #TXLegislature to support HB 1230 which will update the vehicle asset test in #SNAP. Find who represents you here: texastribune.org/directory/#state
  • The #SNAP vehicle asset test is outdated, with two different limits set in 1973 and 2001. Tell your Representative to support HB 1230 by @lina4texas which will modernize the vehicle asset test. Find who represents you here: texastribune.org/directory/#state
  • Hungry Texans shouldn’t be disqualified from accessing #SNAP for owning a vehicle. Tell the #TXLegislature to support HB 1230 to reduce hunger. #YouCantEatACar Find who represents you here: texastribune.org/directory/#state

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Stay Updated

Tarrant Area Food Bank will monitor the grant cut closely. To follow our efforts and to see how TAFB continues to serve the community during the pandemic, follow us on all of our social accounts.