Vehicle test impacts SNAP benefits

Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 2:38 PM CST
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - More than 54,000 Texas households were denied SNAP benefits due to the Vehicle Asset Test in 2022.

This law was put in place over two decades ago, and SNAP recipients who own a vehicle have a limit on what they can receive regarding their car’s value.

SNAP eligibility is based on income and family size. Texans looking to receive government assistance for food also need to pass the Vehicle Asset Test.

Car values have increased due to inflation, and the Vehicle Asset Test currently limits the value of the first vehicle to worth $15,000. If vehicles are worth more than the limit value, recipients are denied benefits.

“It’s affected over 400 hundred families in Wichita Falls and the surrounding 12 counties,” CEO of the Wichita Falls Area Food Bank David O’Neil said.

More than two decades later, recipients whose vehicle value has increased due to inflation are being turned down for benefits they once qualified for.

“If a family in 2019 with a $13,000 vehicle, we all know what’s happened because of inflation with these car prices that, the price in that vehicle now is over $15,000 which means just because of inflation they did not receive and where not eligible to receive SNAP benefits,” O’Neil said.

CEO of Feeding Texas, Celia Cole, said the Vehicle Asset Test was a choice made by Texas to be placed on SNAP benefits.

“During the pandemic, when the value of used cars skyrocketed, is when people would go in to renew their benefits and those who had been approved suddenly were losing the benefits. They’ve done nothing different but their car value just went up,” Cole said.

These limits on the Vehicle Asset Test have not been updated since 2001 for the primary car and 1974 for additional cars. The numbers that beneficiaries need to follow to qualify for SNAP are $15,000 for the first vehicle and $4,650 for any additional vehicle that a family owns.

“By adjusting these values to inflation, it will benefit so many more people and provide some much more food for them,” O’Neil said.

If lawmakers decide to increase the value of the Vehicle Asset Test during the legislative session, SNAP beneficiaries most likely won’t see a change in their benefits decision until September.

More information on Feeding Texas can be found here.