by Cristian ArguetaSoto, Fort Worth Report
May 23, 2023
Mary Cade, 63, was infected with COVID-19 in 2021 shortly after her mother died from complications from the disease. This took her out of the workforce for a month.
That is all it took for her to fall into a spiral of poverty, she said.
“When the pandemic hit, it just started killing off like petals falling off of a tree,” Cade said. “I have had to resort to agencies that are in place to help people who are struggling.”
Cade sat with a caseworker on May 12, filling out a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP — for the second time in two years — at the Tarrant Area Food Bank Distribution Center. In high spirits, Cade answered questions about her income, family health and transportation method.
The longtime east Fort Worth resident said she felt like she was going to lose everything. Her salary dropped from about $60,000 per year to just under $20,000, she said.
That is why she applied for SNAP, frequenting food bank distributions to feed herself. She was denied in 2021, but she said she’s worse off now than she was two years ago.
“Every time I went through that line, I let them know that. ‘Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, because I don’t know where I would have been able to buy milk or eggs,’” Cade said.
Cade awaits a SNAP acceptance or a second rejection. SNAP applications must be reviewed within 30 days, according to federal law.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
What it Offers:
- SNAP helps people buy the food they need with food stamps. People also can buy garden seeds with SNAP benefits.
- SNAP food benefits are put on a Lone Star Card and can be used just like a credit card at any store that accepts SNAP.
SNAP can’t be used to:
- Buy tobacco.
- Buy alcoholic drinks.
- Buy things you can’t eat or drink.
- Pay for food bills you owe.
Who is it for?
- People in eligible low-income households.
- Most adults ages 18 to 49 with no children in their home can get SNAP for only three months in a three-year period. The benefit period might be longer if the person works at least 20 hours a week or is in a job or training program. Some adults might not have to work to get benefits, such as those who have a disability or are pregnant.
- Households in which all members are either older adults (age 60 and older) or people with disabilities are eligible to participate in the Texas Simplified Application Project (TSAP), which makes the SNAP application process easier and provides three years of benefits at a time instead of six months.
Source: Texas Health and Human Services
Applicants must meet certain criteria to be accepted for SNAP, like an income cap per month — $1,869 for one person, $2,518 for two people, $3,167 for three and $3,816 for a four-person household.
Cade falls under the first option; if accepted, she could receive nearly $300 for food per month.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, recipients were seeing an increased amount of benefits, but federal guidelines dictate that emergency funds are no longer to be distributed, leaving people with a 25% cut in benefits.
Tarrant Area Food Bank vice president of advocacy Jared Williams said that is a huge reduction in benefits and a highly debated topic.
Williams said their work focuses on removing “barriers that limit families’ and individuals’ ability to move forward towards financial security.”
Currently, a vehicle asset test can dictate whether or not a person receives SNAP benefits. Cade, for example, is paying a car off, but has not been using it to transport anyone who needs medical help, so it could affect her eligibility. And, as a newspaper delivery route driver, Cade needs her vehicle for work.
The Farm Bill was first introduced as part of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933, and it provides support for agricultural producers and ensures families have food at home. SNAP was introduced in 1994.
Every five years, the bill is reworked by Congress. The bill will need to be reworked in 2023 hence the importance of advocacy on a local, state and national level.
Part of removing those barriers includes educational and training programs that ensure residents learn about healthy eating habits and sustainability. Also, training programs that create jobs in the food industry whether that be restaurants or agriculture, like the food bank’s Fort Worx, a career training program.
The number one client that the food banks serve is called ‘A.L.I.C.E.’, which stands for asset-limited, income-constrained and employed.
“Our number one client is all of those things and usually is a mother with kids, oftentimes a single mother, and then our second A.L.I.C.E is the retired, older adult who is on a fixed income. So, the first thing we try to do is really paint that picture,” Williams said.
Williams said clients often work multiple jobs and try to stretch their dollars as far as they can, but when it doesn’t stretch as far as they need it to, food is the first thing that is cut from their expenses.
That is the case with Cade — her paycheck is just not enough.
“It pays the mortgage and it pays the car insurance and the house,” Cade said. “And after that, I just have to wait for the next two weeks.”
Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. Contact him by email or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.