By CALEB SLINKARD
Approximately 14.5 percent of Hunt County residents, or 12,613 people, are currently receiving assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), according to Stephanie Goodman, a spokesperson for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
This total, which represents 5,666 families, includes 6,043 children and 1,108 people age 60 or older.
The average Hunt County family receiving SNAP benefits gets $257 a month, for a total of approximately $1.4 million in total benefits distributed each month, according to Goodman. Hunt County residents are on pace to receive more than $16.5 million in benefits in 2013.
The benefit amount a family receives is based upon the number of people in the family and the family’s income. The lower the income, according to Goodman, the more in benefits the family receives.
These numbers are up to date, compared to a study released this week by Slate.com, Goodman said. While the total number of individuals enrolled in SNAP has risen over the past decade, numbers have steadied.
“We did see a significant increase statewide during the economic downturn from 2008 to 2010, but enrollment has been very stable since then,” she said. “In Hunt County, it’s a little lower than the enrollment of 12,872 in May of 2012. That’s true statewide as well. Today, there are 3.5 million people in Texas getting SNAP benefits, compared to 3.6 million a year ago.”
Neighboring counties have a lower percentage of residents on SNAP: Delta County has 704 residents enrolled (13.4 percent of the county’s population), Van Zandt County has 6,726 residents (12.7 percent), Kaufman County has 12,388 (11.7 percent), Rockwall County has 4,315 (5.3 percent), and Collin County has 37,364 (4.6 percent).
This federal government assistance is provided via an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT). The Texas Health and Human Services Commission provides EBT funds via the Lone Star Card.
According to the USDA’s website, SNAP benefits can be used to purchase breads, cereals, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, poultry and dairy products. It cannot be used to buy beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes, tobacco, non-food items, vitamins, medicine, hot foods and food that is consumed in the store.
The local branch of the Health and Human Services Commission is not authorized to provide comments to the press. County population totals courtesy the U.S. Census Bureau.