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A U.S. District Court judge has found the Human Services Department secretary in contempt of court after hearings this summer when state employees testified that they were instructed to falsify food stamps applications.

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In an ongoing, decades-long conflict about whether public assistance in New Mexico is available to people who need it most, a federal judge has recommended that the Human Services Department secretary be found in contempt of court.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

  A federal court hearing on whether New Mexico is fit to process applications for food stamps and Medicaid is set to wrap up on Wednesday, July 6. Top brass from the state Human Services Department are expected to testify in response to allegations from employees that applications for emergency food aid were falsified to avoid missing deadlines.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

Hungry people in New Mexico may have been denied expedited food assistance after their applications were falsified and put on hold. That’s according to testimony from state workers in recent weeks during an ongoing hearing about whether the Human Services Department is fit to process applications.

The Battle Over Food Benefits

May 16, 2016
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KUNM Call In Show 5/19 8a:

A group of workers in the Human Services Department testified earlier this month that their bosses changed applications for food stamps in order to prevent people from gaining access to emergency assistance. HSD officials invoked the Fifth Amendment more than 100 times last week when called to testify in court about the allegations. 

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Court proceedings were paused in a hearing about the slow processing of food stamps applications last week when it seemed like a former state employee could incriminate herself.  A supervisor was set to answer questions about falsified applications when the judge asked if she wanted an attorney of her own.

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In the latest round of the ongoing fight about food stamps, a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Jan. 27, aims to halt new work requirements. 

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The Human Services Department is once again trying to expand work requirements for people who use the food stamps program. But fatigue on this issue might be dampening community response.

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Almost a quarter of the people in New Mexico rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—about 448,000. And the Human Services Department is once again calling for more work search and volunteer hours or job training for recipients. Opponents say the rule changes are confusing.

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More than one in five New Mexicans is on food stamps—that’s almost half a million people. Advocates are concerned that coming changes could force people off the federally funded program, and many religious folks are speaking out against the possible new rules. Faith leaders don’t see feeding the hungry as a partisan issue but rather as a basic tenet of their faith.  

Judge Rules Health Audit Can Remain Secret

Aug 14, 2014
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A state agency can continue to keep secret most of an audit it used last year to suspend funding for 15 health organizations and spark criminal investigations into potential Medicaid fraud, a judge ruled Thursday.

The ruling marks the second time in nine months that Douglas R. Driggers, a district judge in Doña Ana County, has agreed with the state’s Human Services Department (HSD) and Attorney General’s Office (AG) that protecting an ongoing criminal investigation trumps the public’s right to information.

NM Seniors Not Hungry For Food Assistance

May 29, 2014
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Thirteen percent of seniors in New Mexico are under threat of not getting enough eat, according to an analysis of the most recent data by the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger.

But a lot of eligible seniors here are not signing up for food assistance, and that could mean $30 million worth of benefits are going unclaimed.