Texas is one of only 10 states in the U.S. to maintain and enforce lifetime bans on food stamp programs for those convicted of drug offenses. This policy was first put into place as part of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, a federal law designed primarily to reform welfare and to encourage those on public assistance to reduce or eliminate their dependence on these programs. In the state of Texas, businesses must meet certain requirements to accept food stamps. Companies that offer Texas license services can often provide valuable guidance on the application process and the restrictions in place for these assistance programs.
Changes on the Way
A bill passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott will allow some drug offenders to qualify for food stamps. Texas Senate Bill 200 will take effect on September 1, 2015, and offers felons convicted of first-time drug offenses to apply for and receive federal food stamps after they have completed their sentences. Violating parole, however, would disqualify these individuals from receiving federal food stamp benefits for two years; a second drug offense conviction would result in the same lifetime ban that currently applies to all drug felons. This marks a major departure from the zero-tolerance policy Texas has traditionally applied to these types of offenses and is expected to allow those who have paid their debt to society to access the help they need to get back on their feet financially.
Leveling the Playing Field
As more states reconsider their food stamp policies, one-time drug felons and their families may have access to added financial resources to help them break the cycle of poverty. This can create increased opportunities even in difficult economic times and can reduce the likelihood that these individuals will engage in criminal activities to make ends meet. By taking a more measured approach to drug offenses, the state of Texas hopes to reduce recidivism while supporting families and individuals dealing with substance abuse and addiction issues. This can potentially level the playing field for those previously convicted of drug offenses and struggling to find work in the modern job market.
Smoothing the Transition from Prison to Productivity
Allowing drug offenders to receive federal benefits during the critical months immediately after their release from prison can provide a valuable safety net for these individuals. This can significantly improve their chances of finding gainful employment by ensuring that they have adequate financial resources throughout their reentry into society. The upcoming changes to Texas law will also have a beneficial effect for children in the state who may have been negatively impacted by the ban in place for one or both of their parents.
The Impact of Increased Eligibility
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission estimates that approximately 3.7 million people receive food stamp benefits each year. It is not yet known to what degree the loosened restrictions on drug felons will have on this number; however, businesses that accept food stamps in Texas will likely see at least some increase in the number of customers utilizing these federal benefits in their stores. Maintaining full compliance with all regulations governing food stamp transactions can help these businesses ensure that they receive their fair share of the added revenues possible as a result of this new legislation.
Working with a company that specializes in Houston liquor license and other license applications can provide added assistance for companies interested in accepting food stamps at their establishments. By consulting with these professionals when making application for a Texas alcoholic beverage license, food stamp permit or other necessary business licenses, Houston businesses can ensure that all aspects of the process go smoothly and are completed in a timely manner.