Congress in Texas passed a bill that would change an important criterion for more than 54,000 households to receive SNAP: the bill is already on Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

A new bill, passed by the Texas Congress last week, would change an eligibility criterion for more state residents to become Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients.

Pending enactment by Gov. Greg Abbott, House Bill 1287 in the state Legislature provided for a one-time inflationary update to the maximum value of a primary automobile so that more Texans would qualify. Under current law, the value of family vehicles are capped too low, disqualifying many residents from receiving SNAP.

Currently, in Texas, beneficiaries’ vehicle values must be capped at $15,000 for a primary vehicle and $4,650 for any additional vehicles. These limits have not been updated since 2001 for a primary car and since 1974 for additional cars, according to the Texas Tribune. More than 11,000 Texas households were denied SNAP benefits in 2019 and 54,740 households were denied in 2022 due to the value of their vehicles, according to a report by Feeding Texas.

The newly passed bill would increase the value of the primary car to $22,500 and $8,700 per additional car. Any vehicle valued above those amounts would disqualify a family from receiving SNAP benefits.

“I really see this not as a handout but as a handout…What we want people to do is get off the government. You have to have transportation to do that,” Republican state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst told the Texas Tribune. “You have to have the ability to get to work.”

SNAP benefits are calculated based on a person’s income, household size and citizenship status. Although SNAP is a federal program, with rules that must be applied across the U.S., because each state has administration of the funds, local governments have the ability to adjust some of the criteria based on their own area’s needs and the lifestyle they manage. The quality of life is not the same in Texas as it is in California, Wyoming, Arkansas or other states.

In this sense, with the change established in the Texas Legislature, the state will not incur additional costs by increasing the values, since SNAP is a federally funded program.

The House signed the bill on May 28 and the Senate signed the bill on Monday and sent it to Abbott’s desk on Tuesday. It is unknown whether he plans to sign the bill.

Food stamp recipients receive an estimated average of $169 in monthly benefits, according to the Department of Agriculture (USDA).

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