The effects of the sequester are beginning to hit home for many of New Mexico’s federally funded social programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, that provides a small amount of grocery money for hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans each month. Several speakers at the New Mexico State Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee meeting Thursday pointed out that New Mexico leads the nation in income inequality, making it one of the poorest states in the nation.
Senator Jacob Candelaria, a democrat from Albuquerque’s west side, says the state’s poor are getting a double whammy, both from sequester aimed at reducing the nation’s deficit by more than $100-billion annually, and by the federal Farm Bill in Congress that is virtually gutting the SNAP program.
“You know, this isn’t some kind of rich, expensive benefit, this is just really keeping people from going into absolute hunger, and it’s something that we need to be committed to as a legislature, and if a very thin benefit is slashed, that has a direct impact on the number of kids that go hungry at night in this state.”
In anticipation of sequester cutbacks earlier this year the New Mexico Legislature put $17-million into reserve, granting themselves the authority to pull cash out if budget shortfalls occurred.
According to Legislative Finance Committee staff, other endangered programs that will see budget cuts include fresh produce in public schools, immunizations, funding for child care assistance and a wide array of federal grants.
Committee members expressed hope that Congress will work out compromises to avert draconian cuts that hit poor communities the hardest.