Mishandling Processing of Federal Benefits
"More than one year after three top state officials refused to answer questions in federal court about fraud allegations and nine months after a federal judge held their cabinet secretary in contempt of court, the state Human Services Department (HSD) appears to still be seriously mishandling how it processes federal benefits to New Mexico’s poor," reads a report published by the online political news site on Thursday, June 29.
The article alludes to efforts by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty (NMCLP) to force HSD to resolve the problem. "The advocacy organization representing plaintiffs in a decades-long lawsuit against HSD is asking a judge to impose monetary sanctions on HSD and its secretary, Brent Earnest. The call for sanctions comes over the department’s alleged failures to meet federal guidelines on processing Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits." Here is the full article.
The NMCLP has closely monitored the policies of Gov. Susana Martinez's administration regarding recipients of public benefits, including fighting efforts by the state government to impose unreasonable work requirements for SNAP recipients. Other anti-hunger advocates have joined in this effort.
Falsifying Resources to Prevent Emergency Assistance
|From Fresh EBT site|
"The scheme prevented many emergency SNAP applications in New Mexico from going overdue, which hypothetically looks good in the eyes of the federal government,' said the article. "In the meantime, the state’s most vulnerable had to wait to receive food aid, or in some cases not get any help at all."
"Recent reports that state workers at the Human Services Department were being pressured into denying emergency SNAP (food stamps) to hungry people and families are very disturbing. For over two decades, a federal court has found HSD’s track record for basic processing of medical and food assistance benefits to be in violation of federal law," Ruth Hoffman, director of the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry New Mexico wrote in an Op-Ed piece on this issue in the summer of 2016.
The New Mexico Political Report article covers testimony in a federal courtroom on June 29 by Kenneth Gonzales, a federal district judge, and Lawrence Parker, a court-appointed “special master” who is tasked with guiding the HSD in its federal compliance with Medicaid and SNAP benefits.
“What nobody wants to see, and you especially, is a culture that allows this to happen,” Gonzales told HSD Secretary Brent Earnest.
Parker emphasized that “many of those same people” who were alleged in 2016 to have instructed HSD employees to falsify SNAP applications to meet federal quotas “are still in place” at the department. Here is the full article.