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New year can’t yet shake focus from COVID-19
It’s a new year, but the news out of the capital continues to focus on COVID-19.
Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted that “a significant portion of vaccines distributed across Texas might be sitting on hospital shelves as opposed to being given to vulnerable Texans. The state urges vaccine providers to quickly provide all shots. We get plenty more each week.”
Many health providers and county health department officials responded that they were working as quickly as they could to give shots to front-line health care workers and lacked the doses necessary to move to what Texas calls phase 1B recipients. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, phase 1B recipients include those 65 and older and those 16 and older with medical conditions that would put them at greater risk from COVID-19.
Various state news outlets reported Texans in phase 1B could not find any vaccine available to them yet. The state health department encouraged the public to check its website weekly for updates on vaccine availability.
In the meantime, people should continue wearing a face mask when in public and follow all social distancing guidelines, health officials said.
Food benefits increased
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission will provide $204 million in emergency SNAP food benefits during January as the state continues its response to the pandemic.
Recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program also will see an additional 15 percent in their total benefits in January because of recently passed federal legislation.
“As we continue through the new year, these benefits offer nutritious food to those who need it most, especially in these trying times” Wayne Salter, of HHS, said in a statement.
The state received federal approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to extend the maximum allowable amount of SNAP benefits to recipients based on family size. The emergency January allotments are in addition to the almost $2 billion in benefits previously provided to Texans between April and December.
Beginning in January, recipients will receive a 15 percent increase in their total benefits, which will continue monthly until June 2021. The additional 15 percent increase and the emergency allotment amount should appear in recipients’ accounts by Jan. 23. Administered by the state agency, SNAP is a federal program that provides food assistance to 1.7 million eligible low-income families and individuals in Texas.
Texans in need may apply for benefits, including SNAP and Medicaid, at YourTexasBenefits.com