Texas is one of just a few states in the country that relies on public assistance to keep people in their homes.
But the state is struggling with a $2.5 trillion budget deficit, and more than 40,000 jobs have disappeared in the last three years.
And the state also is struggling to maintain its health care system and pay for its pensions.
So what can be done to improve the state’s social safety net?
Here are six suggestions.
Expand eligibility for the state unemployment insurance program.
The federal government pays the majority of Texas’ unemployment benefits.
But that doesn’t mean the state can rely on it to pay for every basic need.
Texas could increase the number of people who qualify for unemployment insurance, as well as help people with low income qualify for Medicaid.
Reduce the state sales tax.
In 2013, Texas had one of the highest sales taxes in the nation, and that hurt the state with a lot of people looking to move away.
But in recent years, Texas has been trying to reduce that tax burden, and the Legislature has passed a series of bills aimed at doing just that.
These include legislation that would end the state-level sales tax on alcohol, and another that would make it easier for people to buy their own homes.
Expand access to public assistance.
Texas is struggling financially and has a significant backlog of public assistance payments.
One of the state budgeting tools the Legislature used last year was the budget formula known as the “preferential eligibility formula.”
In this formula, people who can’t afford to pay a portion of their household’s income but can afford to provide a certain amount of support to a family member get priority.
This formula has long been used by states that rely on public aid to pay workers, so a higher percentage of that money goes to low-income people in order to ensure that they have enough money to pay their bills.
Increase the minimum wage.
The minimum wage is the federal minimum wage for tipped workers.
The Texas minimum wage has been at $7.25 for nearly four decades, but it has been set to increase by about $2 per hour, which would help a lot more low-wage workers.
A statewide ballot initiative passed last year would increase the state minimum wage by about 40 cents, which is about $1.50 per hour.
That would bring the state to $15 per hour by 2021.
Create a new child care center.
The state has a backlog of over 7,500 childcare centers.
A lot of of people are working long hours, and some are in their 20s and 30s.
This new center would provide a much-needed boost to the state economy.
Improve the state education system.
Texas ranks 17th among the 50 states in math, reading and science literacy.
But for some of the poorest communities in the state, these are not sufficient skills to succeed in life.
So the state needs to expand access to college for students from low- and moderate-income families, and it needs to invest in higher-education and other educational programs.