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State to grudgingly hire a few more food stamps workers

Don’t strain yourselves, fellas.

State leaders announced late Friday that more employees will be hired to help process food stamp applications.

[…]

“In these tough economic times, the state of Texas must do everything in its power to ensure Texas families that truly can’t make it without state assistance get help without delay,” Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said. “It’s unacceptable to me that Texans who are eligible are waiting for food stamps only because of bureaucratic delays and staffing shortages that we can fix.”

Dewhurst is co-chairman of the Legislative Budget Board that has been working to fix the problem. House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, is the other co-chairman.

“It is essential that the state’s eligibility offices are fully equipped to meet the critical and most basic needs of Texas families,” Straus said.

The board sent a letter to agency officials authorizing the immediate filling of 400 vacancies and the hiring, as necessary, of an additional 250 full-time employees. A review of the program following the initial hiring phase will determine whether up to 399 additional full time employees are needed.

The Health and Human Services Commission has said it needs more than 600 additional employees to handle the backlog, created in part because of people losing jobs in the recession.

The action is not bold enough, said Celia Hagert, a senior policy analyst at the Austin-based Center for Public Policy Priorities, a group that tracks issues affecting modest-income Texans.

“It’s just simply not enough to say, ‘OK, you want 600, we’ll give you 250,’ at a time when tens of thousands of families in Texas are going without the food assistance they need,” she said.

If it were truly “unacceptable” to Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, it wouldn’t have taken this long for any action to occur, and there would be no question about the need for more employees to be hired now. This is what happens when there’s no credible threat of consequences for the officials who fail to do what they need to do. Lisa Falkenberg has more.

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