Under current law, childless adults ages 18 to 50, who are physically and mentally competent are required to enter an employment and training program to be eligible for SNAP benefits. The New Mexico Human Services Department is proposing to widen the range, making it ages 16 to 60, and add people with children over age seven who currently are exempt from the employment requirement.
Opponents argue that the administration’s proposals go beyond what federal law requires and aren’t appropriate for one of the nation’s poorest states. They warn the action could end benefits for tens of thousands of people and cost taxpayers millions of dollars. Some of these same concerns were raised in a town hall meeting in Albuquerque on July 8.
|The South West Organizing Project provided a bus for people in Albuquerque to attend the hearing in Santa Fe|
“The problem is not people sitting at home watching TV. The problem is there are no jobs.” Bill Jordan of New Mexico Voices for Children.
“If you have not gone hungry … you have no moral right to weigh in on another person’s hunger.” Marlene Grant, a teacher at Valley High School in Albuquerque.
“Recently, my wife and myself have needed food stamps. And naturally, a Republican would despise food stamps, to be honest with you... " Santa Fe County small-business owner Ryan Brightbill, who testified that her wife lost her job and could not find another one for 20 months despite an intensive search. If not for Medicaid and SNAP, the couple would faced foreclosure on their home, said Brightbill (who supports the work requirements, but only if the state provides direct employment assistance and help with transportation costs).
"We do wonder if we’re just being put through the motions. Yesterday I was in the Las Cruces hearing of the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee, and I heard administrators there talking about gearing up for October, as if this is already in the works and this is just a token hearing here, so that’s very concerning for us.” Javier Benavidez, executive director of the Southwest Organizing Project.
"We're objecting to expanding mandatory work requirements to thousands more SNAP participants when it's not required by federal law,"Louise Pocock, attorney, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty (quoted a few days before the hearing).
"[Our goal] isn’t to kick people off the program...We’re here to help people. Our mission is to provide public assistance to people who need that assistance. Part of providing that assistance is to help people find the job to help people become more self-sufficient.” Matt Kennicott, Human Services Department spokesperson.
Read full articles on the hearing in Albuquerque Journal, Santa Fe New Mexican and KOAT-TV.
Other coverage: Article in Public News Service, Opinion piece from State Sen. Jacob Candelaria (D-Albuquerque) in New Mexico Political Report, Letter from Patricia Boles, Santa Fe County Community Services Department in Santa Fe New Mexican