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Coastal Bend Food Bank funds at risk due to state budget cuts

Posted at 8:23 PM, Oct 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-09 22:28:38-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A proposal made months ago to cut funding from food banks across the state of Texas could cost the Coastal Bend Food Bank tens of thousands in funding.

It all follows a letter written by Gov. Greg Abbott in May that requested that all state agencies to reduce their budgets by five percent.

Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller instead proposed a 10 percent cut to his department's budget that would affect food banks and programs such as Meals On Wheels.

In the crosshairs of the cuts is the Surplus Agricultural Product Grant, which provides agricultural surplus to charities and food banks. If approved, that proposal would effectively cut the funding for food banks by $1.9 million for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

The Coastal Bend Food Bank could lose $30,094, an email from Feeding Texas stated. That amount translates to a loss of almost 241,000 lbs. of food

Coastal Bend Food Bank Executive Director Bea Hanson understands the importance of fiscal responsibility, but said her group has seen a 30 percent increase in the demand of food in the Coastal Bend community.

“It’s a significant cut," she said. "It is the worst time that this could happen. I understand the reason for the cuts, but not at this time. At this time we are first responders. We need to be able to provide for the families that are in need -- for those who haven’t been able to go back to work.”

Miller defends the 10 percent budget-cut proposal, saying that the governor’s 5-percent request wouldn’t have been enough, and he eventually would have had to go back and make additional cuts.

He also said, frustrated, that many state agencies are exempt from the governor’s request, leading his department to bear the weight.

“I think it needs to be across the board," Miller said. "I wouldn’t exempt half the state agencies and make the other half carry the burden. I think it should be across the board and shared equally."

When KRIS 6 News shared that the Coastal Bend Food Bank has experienced an increase in demand, Miller said food banks statewide have received significant funding to offset their needs.

“Their need and services has increased 30 percent — I haven’t done the calculation — but their funding is probably increased 200 percent, so they should be OK,” Miller said. “It needs to be said that these food banks are in pretty good shape. They have received $90 million of new money that they’ve never had before from the CARES Act and for discretionary money, so they’re probably in better finance shape than they’ve ever been.”

An email from Feeding Texas stated that Miller's public statements about food banks receiving federal funding to make up for this cut is inaccurate.

Texas State Senator and Finance Committee Vice Chair Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, instead, cited a growing need of food assistance for Texans.

“I disagree with that statement," he said. "Quite frankly, we’re facing a major crisis with a pandemic. We all have seen the long lines of cars throughout the state because people are unemployed. They need food.”

Hinojosa — and 19 other state senators — signed a letter that requested that Abbott intervene with Miller’s budget request.

We have not yet seen a response from his office.

Hinojosa said the committee on which he sits will not allow the cuts to happen.

“But they’re 100% wrong,” Hinojosa said. “We make — and have — the final decision in the Texas Legislature.”