2005 Texas Human Resources Code CHAPTER 33. NUTRITIONAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS
HUMAN RESOURCES CODE CHAPTER 33. NUTRITIONAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS§ 33.001. DISTRIBUTION OF SURPLUS COMMODITIES. (a) The department is the state agency designated to cooperate with the federal government in administering the distribution of federal surplus commodities and other resources. (b) The department may cooperate with a city or county in any manner necessary for the proper operation of this program. Acts 1979, 66th Leg., p. 2353, ch. 842, art. 1, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1979. § 33.002. DISTRIBUTION OF COMMODITIES AND FOOD STAMPS. (a) The department is responsible for the distribution of commodities and food stamps allocated to the department by the federal government. (b) The department may enter into agreements with federal agencies that are required as a prerequisite to the allocation of the commodities or food stamps. The department may enter into agreements with eleemosynary institutions, schools, and other eligible agencies and recipients of the commodities and food stamps. (c) The department shall establish policies and rules that will ensure the widest and most efficient distribution of the commodities and food stamps to those eligible to receive them. (d) The department shall continually monitor the expedited issuance of food stamp benefits to ensure that each region in the state complies with federal regulations and that those households eligible for expedited issuance are identified, processed, and certified within the timeframes prescribed within the federal regulations. As soon as practicable after the end of each fiscal year, the department shall report to the Governor's Office of Budget and Planning, the Legislative Budget Board, the state auditor, and the department's board members regarding its monitoring of expedited issuance and the degree of compliance with federal regulations on a region-by-region basis. The department shall notify members of the legislature and the standing committees of the senate and house of representatives having primary jurisdiction over the department of the filing of the report. (e) The Texas Department of Human Services shall screen all applicants for expedited issuance on a priority basis within one working day. Applicants who meet the federal criteria for expedited issuance and have an immediate need for food assistance shall receive either a manual Authorization-to-Purchase card or the immediate issuance of food stamp coupons within one working day. (f) The department shall conspicuously post in each local food stamp office a notice of the availability of and procedure for applying for expedited issuance. (g) The department may, within federal limits, modify the one-day screening and service delivery requirements prescribed by Subsection (e) if the department determines that the modification is necessary to reduce fraud in the food stamp program. Acts 1979, 66th Leg., p. 2354, ch. 842, art. 1, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1979. Amended by Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 150, § 4, eff. Aug. 26, 1985; Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 1052, § 7.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1987; Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 655, § 8.09, eff. Sept. 1, 1995; Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 693, § 2, eff. Sept. 1, 1995. § 33.0021. APPLICATION INFORMATION. (a) The department shall develop general informational materials that contain eligibility guidelines for benefits under this chapter and that clearly and simply explain the process for applying for benefits, as well as indicate the availability of expedited food stamps, the existence of toll-free telephone hotlines, and the existence of a procedure in each region to handle complaints. These informational materials shall be nonpromotional in nature. (b) The materials must contain a list of the specific items necessary to verify an application. (c) The department shall distribute the materials to community action agencies, legal services offices, and emergency food programs and other programs likely to have contact with potential applicants. Added by Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 150, § 5, eff. Aug. 26, 1985. § 33.0022. FRAUD PREVENTION IN FOOD STAMP PROGRAM. (a) The electronic benefits transfer (EBT) system operator and installer shall report to the department and the United States Department of Agriculture suspicious activity relating to a retailer's participation in the food stamp program, including: (1) a noticeable absence of staple food products; (2) a low supply of staple food products in relation to other items in the retailer's inventory; or (3) improper food stamp redemption. (b) The department shall compare a retailer's food stamp sales volume with the retailer's total food sales to determine whether the retailer is eligible to receive free point-of-sale terminals. (c) At least once each fiscal quarter, the department shall provide any information reported under Subsection (a) to the Public Assistance Fraud Oversight Task Force. (d) In this section, "retailer" means a business approved for participation in the food stamp program. Added by Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 322, § 3, eff. May 26, 1997. § 33.0023. FOOD STAMP INFORMATION MATCHING SYSTEM. (a) To detect and prevent fraud in the food stamp program, the department, through the use of a computerized matching system, shall compare at least semiannually department information relating to food stamp transactions and redemptions by recipients of food stamps and retailers with information obtained from the comptroller and other appropriate state agencies relating to those recipients and retailers. (b) The department, the comptroller, and the appropriate agencies shall take all necessary measures to protect the confidentiality of information provided under this section, in compliance with all existing state and federal privacy guidelines. (c) In this section, "retailer" means a business approved for participation in the food stamp program. Added by Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 322, § 3, eff. May 26, 1997. § 33.003. DISTRIBUTION DISTRICTS; AGENTS. (a) The department may establish distribution districts and employ distributing agents or may make other arrangements necessary to provide for the efficient distribution of commodities and food stamps. (b) A distributing agent must be bonded. The department shall audit a distributing agent's records at least once annually and at any other time considered expedient by the department. Acts 1979, 66th Leg., p. 2354, ch. 842, art. 1, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1979. § 33.004. ADVISORY BOARDS. (a) The department may establish state or district-level advisory boards to facilitate the operations of the commodity distribution or food stamp programs. (b) The advisory boards shall be of the size, membership, and experience that the commissioner determines to be essential for the accomplishment of the purposes of this chapter and not in conflict with or duplicative of other laws on this subject. Acts 1979, 66th Leg., p. 2354, ch. 842, art. 1, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1979. § 33.005. PROCESSING PERISHABLE COMMODITIES. (a) The department may enter into nonprofit contracts with state institutions or state or private agencies for the processing of perishable commodities to preserve them for subsequent distribution to eligible recipients. (b) The cost of processing shall be borne by each recipient on a pro rata basis in relation to the amount of the processed commodities received by each distribution district. Acts 1979, 66th Leg., p. 2354, ch. 842, art. 1, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1979. § 33.006. HANDLING CHARGES. (a) The department may assess reasonable handling charges against the recipients of commodities or food stamps to cover the cost of distribution. The total operation must be conducted on a nonprofit basis. (b) The department shall make the assessments at the times and in the amounts that it considers necessary for the proper administration of the programs. However, the assessments must be uniform in each distribution district and may not exceed $1 per recipient per year. Acts 1979, 66th Leg., p. 2354, ch. 842, art. 1, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1979. Amended by Acts 1983, 68th Leg., p. 399, ch. 81, § 18(a), eff. Sept. 1, 1983. § 33.007. COMMODITY DISTRIBUTION FUND. (a) Funds received from assessments for handling charges pursuant to Section 33.006 of this code shall be paid to the department and deposited in a separate account in the state treasury subject to withdrawal on authorization of the commissioner. (b) The funds may be used only for necessary expenses incurred in operating the commodity distribution and food stamp programs, and their use is subject to the rules of the department, the provisions of this chapter, and the provisions of the general appropriation acts of the legislature. (c) If the commodity distribution program or food stamp program is terminated, funds remaining in the account after all due and just accounts have been paid shall be refunded to the contributors on a pro rata basis. Acts 1979, 66th Leg., p. 2354, ch. 842, art. 1, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1979. § 33.008. SALE OF USED COMMODITY CONTAINERS. The department may sell used commodity containers. Proceeds from the sales in each distribution district shall be deposited in the commodity distribution fund and used for the commodity distribution program. Acts 1979, 66th Leg., p. 2355, ch. 842, art. 1, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1979. § 33.010. SALE OF EQUIPMENT AND PROPERTY. If the commodity distribution and/or food stamp programs are terminated, equipment and property purchased with funds from the commodity distribution fund shall be sold by competitive bids. The proceeds from the sales shall be deposited in the commodity distribution fund in each district and distributed in the manner specified by Section 33.009 of this code. Acts 1979, 66th Leg., p. 2355, ch. 842, art. 1, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1979. § 33.011. PROHIBITED ACTIVITIES; PENALTIES. (a) A person commits an offense if the person knowingly uses, alters, or transfers food stamp benefit permits in any manner not authorized by law. An offense under this subsection is a Class A misdemeanor if the value of the food stamp benefit permits is less than $200 and a felony of the third degree if the value of the food stamp benefit permits is $200 or more. (b) A person commits an offense if the person knowingly possesses food stamp benefit permits when not authorized by law to possess them, knowingly redeems food stamp benefit permits when not authorized by law to redeem them, or knowingly redeems food stamp benefit permits for purposes not authorized by law. An offense under this subsection is a Class A misdemeanor if the value of the food stamp benefit permits is less than $200 and a felony of the third degree if the value of the food stamp benefit permits is $200 or more. (c) A person commits an offense if the person knowingly possesses blank authorizations to participate in the food stamp program when not authorized by law to possess them. An offense under this subsection is a felony of the third degree. (d) When cash, exchange value, or food stamp benefit permits of various values are obtained in violation of this section pursuant to one scheme or continuing course of conduct, whether from the same or several sources, the conduct may be considered as one offense and the values aggregated in determining the grade of the offense. (e) The department may contract with county commissioners courts to provide funds to pay for professional and support services necessary for the enforcement of any criminal offense that involves illegally obtaining, possessing, or misusing food stamps. (f) For the purposes of Subsections (a) and (b), the value of food stamp benefit permits is the cash or exchange value obtained in violation of this section. (g) In this section, "food stamp benefit permits" includes: (1) food stamp coupons; (2) electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards; and (3) authorizations to participate in the food stamp program. Acts 1979, 66th Leg., p. 2355, ch. 842, art. 1, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1979. Amended by Acts 1979, 66th Leg., p. 2435, ch. 842, art. 2, § 6, eff. Sept. 1, 1979; Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 249, § 1, 2, eff. Sept. 1, 1993; Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 788, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997. § 33.012. CHEMICAL DEPENDENCY TREATMENT PROGRAM AS REPRESENTATIVE. The department shall provide an individual's food stamp allotment to the residential chemical dependency treatment program in which the person resides to the extent allowed under Section 8(f), Food Stamp Act of 1977 (7 U.S.C. Section 2017(e)), if the individual designates the program as the individual's authorized representative. Added by Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 663, § 2, eff. Sept. 1, 1997. § 33.013. INFORMATION AND REFERRAL SERVICES. (a) Each local food stamp office shall compile and maintain a current list of emergency food providers in the area served by the local food stamp office and refer individuals who need food to local programs that may be able to provide assistance. (b) The department shall establish regional or statewide toll-free telephone hotlines to provide emergency food information and to refer needy individuals to local programs that may be able to provide assistance. The department shall publish the telephone number for referrals in the emergency telephone numbers section of local telephone books. The department shall display this telephone number in all of its offices. (c) Where emergency food programs do not exist, the Texas Department of Human Services office shall assist community groups in establishing emergency food assistance programs. (d) The department may establish other local, regional, or statewide programs to provide emergency food information and referral services where needed and where none presently exist. Added by Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 150, § 2, eff. Aug. 26, 1985. Amended by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 1052, § 7.02, eff. Sept. 1, 1987. § 33.015. INITIAL ESTABLISHMENT AND RECERTIFICATION OF ELIGIBILITY FOR CERTAIN PERSONS. (a) In administering the food stamp program, the department shall, except as provided by Subsection (c), allow a person to comply with initial eligibility requirements, including any initial interview, and with subsequent periodic eligibility recertification requirements by telephone instead of through a personal appearance at department offices if: (1) the person and each member of the person's household have no earned income and are elderly or disabled; or (2) the person is subject to a hardship, as determined by the department. (b) For purposes of Subsection (a)(2), a hardship includes a situation in which a person is prevented from personally appearing at department offices because the person is: (1) subject to a work or training schedule; (2) subject to transportation difficulties; (3) subject to other difficulties arising from the person's residency in a rural area; (4) subject to prolonged severe weather; (5) ill; or (6) needed to care for a member of the person's household. (c) The department may require a person described by Subsection (a) to personally appear at department offices to establish initial eligibility or to comply with periodic eligibility recertification requirements if the department considers a personal appearance necessary to: (1) protect the integrity of the food stamp program; or (2) prevent an adverse determination regarding the person's eligibility that would be less likely to occur if the person made a personal appearance. (d) A person described by Subsection (a) may elect to personally appear at department offices to establish initial eligibility or to comply with periodic eligibility recertification requirements. (e) The department shall require a person exempted under this section from making a personal appearance at department offices to provide verification of the person's entitlement to the exemption on initial eligibility certification and on each subsequent periodic eligibility recertification. If the person does not provide verification and the department considers the verification necessary to protect the integrity of the food stamp program, the department shall initiate a fraud referral to the department's office of inspector general. Added by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 93, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2001. § 33.022. APPLICATION ASSISTANCE. (a) On request of an applicant, the department shall assist the applicant in filling out forms and completing the application process. (b) The department shall inform each applicant of the availability of assistance. Added by Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 150, § 6, eff. Aug. 26, 1985. § 33.023. INFORMATION VERIFICATION. (a) The department shall develop and implement for expedited issuance a uniform procedure for verifying information required of an applicant. (b) In developing the uniform procedure, the department shall attempt to minimize the cost and complexity of the procedure to the applicant. (c) The department shall not require applicants for expedited service to verify more eligibility items than the minimum necessary to conform to the federal regulations and shall assist the applicant in obtaining materials needed to verify an application. The department shall not deny or delay determination of eligibility due to lack of verification of items that may be postponed if they cannot be verified within the timeframes prescribed by the federal regulations. (d) The department shall post a notice in each of its offices indicating to whom an applicant or client can talk to resolve problems or complaints. This notice should indicate persons available to handle problems in local, regional, and state offices. Notification of the existence of each office and complaint procedures shall be posted in each food stamp office and in materials made available to applicants regarding the application process. Added by Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 150, § 7, eff. Aug. 26, 1985. § 33.024. SUMMER FOOD SERVICE PROGRAM. (a) In this section: (1) "Agency" means the Texas Education Agency. (2) "Field office" means a field office of a special nutrition program administered by the department. (3) "Summer program" means the Summer Food Service Program. (b) The department and the agency shall develop a plan to ensure that by June 15, 1997, children residing in school districts in which 60 percent or more children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals will have access to the summer program. The plan shall provide a time line for implementation effective the summer of 1994 through June 15, 1997. The department and the agency shall each designate a person on their respective administrative staffs who shall be charged with coordinating activities pursuant to this requirement. (c) The agency shall provide to the department, in October following each school year, a listing of those school districts which had at least: (1) 90 percent of children in the district eligible for free or reduced-price meals during the 1992-1993 school year; (2) 80 percent of children in the district eligible for free or reduced-price meals during the 1993-1994 school year; (3) 70 percent of children in the district eligible for free or reduced-price meals during the 1994-1995 school year; and (4) 60 percent of children in the district eligible for free or reduced-price meals during 1995-1996 school year and each school year thereafter. (d) By November 30 of each year, the department and the agency shall jointly notify the following of their joint responsibility to provide or arrange for the provision of a summer program the following summer: (1) each listed school district that does not have a summer program sponsor in the district; and (2) nutrition program field offices. (e) School district facilities shall be utilized for the summer program unless: (1) the district provides documentation, verified by the department and the agency, showing that the cost to the district exceeds the funds available for the summer program; or (2) the Department of Human Services verifies that the program will operate at adequate alternative facilities. (f) Each notified school district shall respond to the department and the agency no later than January 31 of the following year and either indicate its intent to operate a summer program in the following summer or request a waiver of the requirement to operate a summer program, as provided by Subsection (g). (g) A waiver under Subsection (f) may be granted by the department and the agency, to a school district if: (1) the district demonstrates to the department and the agency that: (A) there are fewer than 100 children in the district currently eligible for free or reduced-price meals; (B) transportation remains an insurmountable obstacle despite consultation by the district with public transit providers; (C) the district is unable to operate a summer program due to renovation or construction within the district and an appropriate alternative provider or site is not available; or (D) the district is unable to operate a summer program due to other extenuating circumstances and an appropriate alternative provider or site is not available; and (2) the district works with the field offices to identify other persons and agencies in the district who were contacted as potential providers or sites for the summer program. (h) If the school district has requested a waiver under Subsection (f) and has been unable to provide a list of possible sponsors to the department, the field offices shall continue efforts to locate an alternative sponsor for the summer program. (i) The department, in consultation with the agency, shall publish rules and procedures for obtaining a waiver under Subsection (f). A waiver shall be for a one-year period. (j) Not later than November 1 of each even-numbered year, the department and the agency shall provide to the Governor's Office of Budget and Planning, the Legislative Budget Board, and the state auditor a report that includes a listing of school districts identified as described in Subsection (c) that have become sponsors of a summer program. The report must also include a listing of identified school districts that failed to satisfy the requirements of this section. The report must also include the costs, above federal funds, incurred by the school districts and the state in order to comply with this section. The department shall notify members of the legislature and the standing committees of the senate and house of representatives having primary jurisdiction over the department of the filing of the report. (k) The department shall develop and implement an outreach program to increase participation in the summer program if funds are appropriated or otherwise made available for that purpose. The department shall design the outreach program to: (1) increase participation of children from low-income families; (2) increase the number of summer programs offered across this state, with particular emphasis on increasing programs in needy communities; (3) encourage school districts and public and private nonprofit agencies to form partnerships to develop summer programs that combine educational activities, such as reading enrichment, with the provision of meals; and (4) promote any other goal established by the department relating to increased participation in the summer program. (l) The outreach program required by Subsection (k) must target communities and schools that have the highest percentage of eligible children and include: (1) presentations to public schools, public entities, and private nonprofit agencies that would be eligible to participate in the summer program; (2) dissemination of information regarding eligibility requirements and application procedures; (3) continual support and technical assistance to existing programs to increase participation levels and to ensure that the programs continue to operate; and (4) public service announcements that publicize the summer program and that appear on local television and radio stations. (m) The department shall administer a grant program designed to encourage eligible organizations to serve as local sponsors or meal preparation sites for the summer program by awarding a financial supplement for each meal served from funds appropriated or otherwise made available for that purpose. Added by Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 328, § 2, eff. Aug. 30, 1993. Amended by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 693, § 3, eff. Sept. 1, 1995; Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 165, § 6.55, eff. Sept. 1, 1997; Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 719, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1999. § 33.025. NUTRITION EDUCATION AND OUTREACH FOR THOSE ELIGIBLE FOR FOOD STAMPS. (a) The department shall develop and implement a plan of operation to provide nutrition education and outreach to persons eligible for food stamps. (b) The plan of operation for education and outreach shall: (1) ensure that low-income consumers are provided with informational materials that include but are not limited to information on: (A) food budgeting for low-income consumers; (B) purchasing and preparing low-cost nutritional meals; (C) basic nutrition and healthy foods; (D) the availability of food stamps; (E) the eligibility requirements for food stamps; and (F) the application procedures for receiving food stamps; (2) identify a target population for the informational activities, which may include: (A) recipients of the Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children; (B) families which have children who are eligible for the free or reduced-priced meals programs; (C) recipients of commodity surplus foods; (D) senior citizens attending nutrition sites and participating in nutritional activities; (E) clients of emergency food pantries; (F) farm workers or migrants; and (G) others who may benefit from the information including but not limited to senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and working poor families; (3) identify geographical areas, if any, which specifically will be targeted; and (4) ensure that all informational activities are multilingual and available in accessible alternative formats. (c) The department shall submit the plan of operation to the Food and Nutrition Service of the United States Department of Agriculture for approval, making the department eligible for reimbursement for 50 percent of the cost of the informational activities. (d) The department shall cooperate with other state agencies that currently operate nutrition education programs. (e) The department shall enlist the assistance of pro bono public relations firms where available. Added by Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 328, § 3, eff. Aug. 30, 1993. § 33.026. CHILD AND ADULT CARE FOOD PROGRAM: REQUIRED NOTICES AND ADVISORY COMMITTEE AUTHORITY. (a) Before adopting or changing a department rule or policy relating to the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program, the department shall submit the proposed action to the department's advisory committee on that program for comment, unless immediate action is required by federal law. If immediate action is required by federal law, the department shall submit the action for comment at the earliest possible date. (b) The department shall provide written notice to each sponsoring organization of any modification or clarification of department rules or policies relating to the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program. Notice provided through electronic mail is considered to be written notice for purposes of this subsection. (c) The department's advisory committee on the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program may: (1) conduct public hearings in accordance with department procedures; (2) refer issues relating to the program to the board for discussion; and (3) recommend modifications to the department's training programs for sponsoring organizations and other persons participating in the program. Added by Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 719, § 2, eff. Sept. 1, 1999. § 33.027. CHILD AND ADULT CARE FOOD PROGRAM: ELECTRONIC FILING. (a) In administering the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program, the department shall, unless prohibited by federal law, permit a sponsoring organization or other person participating in the program to submit applications and other required information to the department in an electronic format or through the use of electronically produced forms. (b) The department may implement Subsection (a) by developing necessary computer systems or by using computer systems developed or made available for that purpose by a sponsoring organization or other appropriate person. Added by Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 719, § 3, eff. Jan. 1, 2001.
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