Emergency Food Assistance

A lot of Texans lost food that spoiled in their refrigerators when they were without power due to Hurricane Ike. Two weeks ago my office started getting calls from constituents who had waited in line for hours at Health and Human Services offices to get food assistance, only to find they would receive just $10 for the month. I thought that needed to change and got on the phone with the Health and Human Services Commission. Based on inquiries I made, the Health and Human Services Commission increased food assistance benefits for thousands of Texans.

Below is an article from the Houston Chronicle on the subject, which you can read by clicking here.

Mental Health Parity

Just a few moments ago, the House of Representatives passed the financial bailout bill; attached to that bill is the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, authored by Patrick Kennedy in the House and Ted Kennedy in the Senate. The Mental Health Parity Act is landmark legislation that ends insurance discrimination against Americans with mental illness, providing Americans with employer-provided health care at mid-sized and large companies with the same coverage for mental illnesses as they get for physical ailments.

In 1997, I passed HB 1173, a state-level mental health parity bill that covers serious mental illnesses in Texas. Today, similar legislation has passed Congress and will be signed by the president to provide mental health coverage for all Americans. You can read an editorial in favor of the legislation from the New York Times by clicking here.

I promise to send you more updates on this subject and on food stamps as they develop.

Because of Ike, poor families getting more food stamp aid
Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau
Oct. 1, 2008, 10:40PM

AUSTIN — Low-income families struggling to recover from Hurricane Ike will get higher-than-normal food stamp benefits this month, state officials said Wednesday.

The benefits increase is expected to help more than 240,000 families living in 29 Texas counties declared federal disaster areas.

The state requested federal approval for the extra food assistance in recognition that many families and individuals are having extra expenses related to the storm.

“Our offices have been seeing many low-income families who aren’t currently receiving food stamps,” Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins said in a press release. “In many cases, these families lost food because of power outages or flooding, and they’re also facing other financial pressures this month.”

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, raised the food stamp issue after talking to people who stood in line for hours to apply for benefits, and then received only $14 in food stamps for the month.

The amount of food assistance a person receives is based on family size and income.

Under the new policy, a single person with income of $870 this month will get $170, an increase of $156 over the standard allotment of $14. A family of three with an income of $1,143 will receive $451 in food stamps in October, an increase of $331 over the standard allotment of $120.

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