Zaffirini said in an interview that she and Williams will work with Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Tom Suehs on hiring more enrollment workers — as well as training and retaining them — and improving communication between state and local offices.
“Hiring personnel in and of itself will not solve the problem,” Zaffirini said.
The state is not meeting federal food stamp standards, which require applications to be processed within 30 days (and seven for emergency applications). In September, Texas failed to process 41.4 percent of applications by the federal government’s deadline. The federal government — which pays for all the food and half the administrative costs of the program — has told Texas to speed up application processing or risk losing federal funds.
Zaffirini said she told Suehs she wants to see weekly progress reports and a timeline for the hiring.
“We need to ensure that the people who are eligible for the services are receiving them in a timely period,” she said.
Zaffirini said she thinks the state should be collaborating more closely with food banks.
Officials with the Texas Food Bank Network this week sent a letter to federal food stamp officials, saying that programs such as food stamps should not rely on non-profits to address their staffing needs.
“We worry that an over-reliance on comparatively small organizations like ours, while an obvious immediate solution, may divert attention and urgency from the broader, more fundamental failures in our state’s application system,” says the letter from Eric Cooper and Jan Pruitt of the Network to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s William Ludwig.
You can see the letter the Food Bank network wrote here (PDF). I think they’re right to be concerned that they’ll be depended on for more that they can give. We’ve been dealing with this on the cheap all along, I don’t see why anyone should expect it to be different now. Zaffirini and Williams may be able to make a difference at the margins for the time being, but nothing will change until the state’s leadership does.