A Texas woman’s trip to the welfare office ended in tragedy Tuesday when she shot her two children and then turned the gun on herself after being denied food stamps.
Authorities in Laredo said that 38-year-old Rachelle Grimmer killed herself during a seven-hour standoff with police. Her children, 10 year-old Timothy and 12 year-old Ramie, were in critical condition at University Hospital, according to KENS.
Texas Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman told The Associated Press that Grimmer had been denied food stamps when she first applied in July because she didn’t turn in enough information.
People seeking assistance must complete an 18-page application and submit other documents as proof of their information.
“We were still waiting, and if we had that, I don’t know if she would qualify or not,” Goodman explained.
Grimmer predicted her own death on her Facebook page, where she listed her occupation as “may die 2day.”
“[T]ear gas seriasly (sic),” one updated said, apparently written during the standoff.
“I’m here for you guys,” one friend replied. “[N]o reason to be afraid.”
Under Republican Gov. Rick Perry, Texas has seen the number of citizens on food stamps swell to a record 3.7 million, and even more are eligible. Almost 1.4 million have begun receiving food stamps in the last four years alone, meaning that 15 percent of Texas are now in the program.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, Texas ranks 39th (PDF) in accessibility to food assistance for low-income communities, an improvement from past years.
A state auditor’s report found that between 2006 and 2010, the percentage of food stamp applications processed within the 30 day mandatory period dropped from 92 percent to 65 percent. About 50 individuals and five nonprofit organizations are suing (PDF) the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, claiming that the process is illegally denying benefits to Texans.
Houston’s Fox 26 found last year that there were at least 40,000 families in the state who had been waiting longer than one month for food assistance.
The Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) has established a hotline for Texans who are facing delays. The number is 866-757-1570.
Watch this video from KENS, Dec. 6, 2011.
Watch this video from Fox 26, broadcast Jan. 19, 2010.
Photo: Flickr/Amy Jeffries