Wednesday, July 08, 2015

A Town Hall Meeting: 'Fight Hunger, not the Hungry'

Last year, the Human Services Department presented a plan to bring back and expand work-related requirements on low-income New Mexicans to qualify for food stamps. Under the plan, the state would restore a 20-hour-a-week work requirement for an estimated 26,600 childless adults to get food stamps. Advocacy groups like the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty (NMCLP) and the Lutheran Advoacy Ministry-New Mexico (LAM) came out strongly in opposition to the proposal. The NMCLP has worked tirelessly to protect SNAP benefits for New Mexico families.

Gov. Susana Martinez's administration postponed the implementation of the plan, which was due to go into effect in October 2014. However, in May of this year, the HSD again announced its intention to put the proposal into effect. The decision again prompted an outcry from community activists. The South West Organizing Project (SWOP) and the NMCLP have organized a Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday, July 8, 6:00-8:00 p.m. (this evening) to allow the public an opportunity to make comments on the proposed SNAP rules. The event will be held at the South Broadway Cultural Center, 1025 Broadway SE (map).  Join event on Facebook.

Advocates point out that federal guidelines already have some sort of work requirement for SNAP participants, and that the regulations proposed by the state go far beyond what is reasonable.
"Federal law already requires work activities as a prerequisite to receiving food assistance, in certain areas of the state, for able-bodied adults between the ages of 18-50 who do not have children," said organizers of the town hall. "However, New Mexico intends to impose work activities on parents with children over the age of six, teenagers ages 16 to 18 that are not in school, and adults between ages 50 to 60 who participate in SNAP. The state estimates that over 62,000 adults would be subject to these requirements."

"Most other states exempt these groups of people because they are often more vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition. Moreover, 28 states and territories have completely voluntary work participation programs for all SNAP participants," added the organizers.

Advocates worry  that the unnecessary requirements will lead to increased hunger in New Mexico. Our state already has some of the highest rates of food insecurity and unemployment in the country.
“My concern from a nutrition standpoint is that these proposed changes to the SNAP program will push people off of SNAP, including children, which will lead to increased hunger and food insecurity and its negative consequences," said Patty Keane, president-elect of the New Mexico Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Rather than setting children and families up for success, this proposal may be setting them, and ultimately all of us, up for failure.”

Read other comments about the latest proposal from the NMCLP, SWOP, New Mexico Voices for Children and others.

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