Stock image of family of three at the grocery store
Stock image

Pandemic-era food stamps end for nearly 30M Americans

Some 30 million Americans are now facing a significant cut in their monthly food assistance. After nearly three years, the federal government ended pandemic-era payments this month for low-income families on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The average household will lose $95 a month for groceries, according to a study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Depending on other factors, including family size and income, some recipients will lose hundreds of dollars a month in food assistance. The elimination of the extra SNAP benefits comes as wages fail to keep up with stubbornly high inflation. Food prices alone are up 10.1% from a year ago, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with staples like butter up 31% and breakfast cereals and bread each up 15%.

Texas Senate advances bill making illegal voting a felony

Senate Bill 2 would make illegal voting an offense punishable by 2-to-20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. It’s one of several election-related bills before the Texas Legislature, several of which appear squarely aimed at Harris County. A bill to make illegal voting a felony again advanced in the Texas Senate. Under SB 2, illegal voting render a punishment comparable to that for manslaughter. The bill also establishes the conditions under which a person can be charged with illegal voting. Testimony on SB 2 was mixed. Gary Bledsoe, president of the NAACP of Texas, condemned SB 2 as, “a clear and overt manifestation of racial bias. The intent of the law is clear: to make it easy to prosecute other Crystal Masons and Hervis Rogers around the state.” Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), a co-author of the bill, denies there is any racial intent of this bill.

HISD gears up to provide on-campus telehealth services for students

Telehealth services are currently being offered at schools across the nation following the growing need in schools for mental and physical health services. In early November of 2022 HISD announced it had approved an investment in on-campus telehealth services and that it would be joining other districts by giving students access to telehealth services at no cost thanks to a new partnership with Hazel Health. This will allow students to connect with diverse, multilingual, licensed medical providers to receive mental and physical health services. These services may include easy access to medical specialists for those who have limited movement or little to no transportation, improved communication, patient portals, personal health apps and records, remote monitoring, virtual visits and primary care for many different conditions.

BakerRipley providing free tax services at roving mobile sites

Families and individuals who earn up to $58,000 annually are eligible for the free tax preparation services, which will be provided through April 15 at 12 mobile sites across Harris County. A Houston nonprofit will provide free tax preparation services at roving locations across Harris County. BakerRipley, which benefits underserved communities throughout the Houston area, is operating 12 mobile tax sites across the region through April 15 – three days before the filing deadline for most Americans. Families and individuals earning up to $58,000 annually are eligible for the free tax preparation services, which will be provided on a walk-in basis, according to BakerRipley. In addition to taxpayers who receive W-2 or 1099 forms from their employers, those who are paid by cash or check also can use the service. The effort is in response to a three-year, $2.1 million investment by Harris County Commissioners Court toward BakerRipley’s Neighborhood Tax Centers program, with the goal of expanding the service to more parts of the county.