The changes HSD has proposed are twofold. First, more people would be required to participate in a rigorous job search program. Second, adults who don’t have kids would have to work at least 20 hours a week in order to receive food stamps. There are a range of exemptions from the new requirements, including for pregnant women, people with children under 6 years of age and others.
But job growth has been stagnant here and New Mexico has high rates of hunger and food insecurity. Louise Pocock, an attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, says the changes would be devastating.
"It's that black and white,” Pocock said. “If you can't find work for 20 hours a week, you are going to be limited to three months of SNAP benefits and you are going to be cut off. You will not be able to reapply for three years."
Pocock says with higher eligibility requirements for food stamps, fewer people would receive the benefits and the state economy would miss out on the injection of federal funds.
The Human Services Department has cited federal requirements as the impetus for the proposed changes, but advocates point out that New Mexico actually qualifies for a waiver from those federal guidelines. After hearing public comment, HSD could amend their proposal.
A free bus will be leaving from Albuquerque at 7:30 in the morning and taking people to the hearing in Santa Fe.
Editor's Note: This story has been edited to reflect that pregnant women will be exempted from both of the newly proposed requirements. An error was made in the drafting of the regulation, according to Matt Kennicott with the New Mexico Human Services Department, that said pregnant women would not exempted from the job training requirement. They will be exempted from that requirement and the 20 hours a week work requirement.