Saturday, July 01, 2017

News Site Provides Updates on Two New Mexico SNAP Controversies

The New Mexico Political Report pubished back-to-back articles on controversies involving the State of New Mexico and  SNAP recipients within our borders. We are appreciative to the Political Report for keeping these issues at the forefront during a time when many other topics are grabbing the headlines.

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
A second article published by the New Mexico Political Report on Friday, June 30, offers an update on a controversy that occurred in the summer of 2016, when nine HSD employees alleged in sworn court testimony a longstanding, unwritten rule within the department to add fake resources to emergency applications for emergency SNAP benefit. The fake resources, they said, would move the applicants’ statuses away from emergency and give the department an extra few weeks to process their applications.

"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.

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