Groups criticize Humans Services Department decision to turn down SNAP resources, implement work requirement

August 26, 2014

Community members will make comments at a press conference immediately following Friday’s public hearing

Albuquerque, NM – The governor has proposed to turn down federal resources and implement work requirements for SNAP participants. Without child care, job training and job readiness support, and almost non-existent public transportation in rural parts of the state, activists and New Mexicans dealing with some of the fewest job prospects and highest food insecurity in the nation are telling the governor and Human Services Department secretary Sidonie Squier that these changes will only hurt New Mexico families.

“Cutting SNAP resources is not a job creation program,” says Rodrigo Rodriguez, an organizer with Southwest Organizing Project. “With 1 in 3 children in New Mexico experiencing hunger, and 1 in 5 adults unsure of where their next meal is coming from, this proposal will only exacerbate hunger and reinforce poor nutrition and food insecurity for our state’s most vulnerable communities.”

The New Mexico Human Services Department (HSD) plan to limit food benefits to adults on food stamps, including parents of children over six years old, would make New Mexico one of six states to reject these available federal benefits that currently bring millions of dollars into New Mexico’s grocers and surrounding communities, while alleviating hunger. New Mexico is one of the most food insecure states in the nation, where 20.8% of New Mexicans live below the poverty line, including 29.2% of children. 86% of this population participates in the SNAP program.

“This is another example of the Human Services Department Secretary being out of touch with the people she is meant to serve,” says Kim Posich, executive director of the Center on Law and Poverty. “Work requirements for families receiving food assistance do not result in more people getting jobs. They do not result in more families doing community service when they cannot afford childcare. Work requirements simply result in more people going hungry.”

Critics of the HSD proposal point to the current job market in New Mexico, where unemployment is on the rise, and communities are feeling the economic impact of a double-dip recession.

“It’s difficult for young men of color to find work, and then to lose the possibility for SNAP makes it even more difficult for us to make it,” explains George Igwe of the Men of Color Initiative.

New Mexicans have seen how SNAP resources continue to pay dividends for many years after the food stamps have been used, as well as the devastating effects of potential cuts.

“Hungry children cannot learn, making it harder for them to do well in school, which can have far-reaching impact on their potential for academic and work achievement,” says Patty Keane, MS, RD, a Nutrition Scientist. “Hungry children have trouble getting along with others, which can lead to behavioral problems in school and at home. They are at higher risk for depression and anxiety. Even when a parent protects their child from hunger by ensuring the child is fed first, the anxiety and psychological stress of food insecurity and insufficiency in the home still affects the child.”

New Mexico HSD will hold a public hearing on the proposed changes August 29th at 9am at the Harold Runnels Building Auditorium, 1190 St. Francis Drive, Santa Fe, NM. The location has been changed to accommodate more attendees. Individuals wishing to testify or to request a copy of the proposed regulation should contact the Income Support Division by calling 505-827-7250. Written or recorded comments can be submitted electronically to: DebraD.Hendricks@state.nm.us

Community members, activists and allies will be available for comment at a press conference immediately following the public hearing outside the Harold Runnels Building in Santa Fe.

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