Marisa Demarco / KUNM

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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The first report from a state investigation into whether state employees falsify food stamps applications revealed evidence of the practice, but so far, no written orders from higher-ups. The report was released Friday after a judge ruled that it had to be made public.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

For the first time since allegations surfaced that state employees falsify food stamps applications, New Mexicans heard testimony from public officials Thursday.

Marisa Demarco/KUNM


A federal judge unsealed the results of a state investigation into falsification of food stamp applications by state employees Wednesday. That means the internal Human Services Department report will be released to the public. Public Health New Mexico's Marisa Demarco spoke with KUNM's Chris Boros. 

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.

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New Mexico's latest troubles with administering food stamps are just the most recent in a long string of problems. In 1988, Debra Hatten-Gonzales and others filed lawsuits alleging the Human Services Department broke federal laws in determining eligibility for food stamps, Medicaid and Aid to Families with Dependent Children. The state settled with the plaintiffs in 1990, and agreed to deadlines to reform their processes.

Despite working as a home health aide in New Mexico for nearly two decades, Kimberly Jones was struggling to get the hours she needed to make ends meet. She was living in a hotel room, and every day she had to make a choice.

"Do I eat or do I pay for the room? Or how can I squeeze them both? Because, you know, the hotel wants their money," Jones says. "They don't care if you eat or not."

Jones applied for food stamps. She says the state worker she met with told her she was eligible for expedited assistance, and she'd get her benefits within a week.

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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For decades, the New Mexico Human Services Department has faced criticism for failing to properly process applications for Medicaid and food assistance, or SNAP benefits.

Several former and current Human Service Department workers testified last month that it was department policy to alter the information on emergency SNAP applications so that people wouldn’t be eligible for benefits.

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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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More than half a million people in the state make use of food stamps. Federal judges ordered the state on Monday, March 7, to halt work requirements for the program.  

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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. via CC

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.  

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The Human Services Department announced it would not begin demanding more New Mexicans on food stamps meet work requirements. The rule change was slated to go into effect at the beginning of this month, but a lawsuit filed by two nonprofits threw a wrench in the works. 

The lawsuit charged HSD with not following proper procedure in alerting people to the rule change—or posting the full and correct version of the work requirement—before it was adopted.

Marisa Demarco

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez secured a second term last night, beating her Democratic challenger Gary King handily. Martinez emphasized bipartisanship during her acceptance speech at the Marriott in Albuquerque, which was packed with Republicans from around the state.

As Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela introduced Gov. Martinez late Tuesday night, he focused on her heart—perhaps a nod to opponent Gary King’s maligned comment about the governor’s not being Latino enough. 

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Two New Mexico nonprofits filed a lawsuit this week against the state that could halt changes to the state’s food assistance program.

The Center on Law and Poverty and the Southwest Organizing Project, along with three people who rely on food stamps, are asking for a temporary restraining order that would stop a work requirement for certain SNAP recipients that’s slated to go into effect on November 1.

Will Work For Food?: SNAP And Work Requirements

Sep 16, 2014
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KUNM Call In Show Thu. 9/18 8a: New Mexico is in what has been termed a "double-dip recession."  We are at or near the top of lists of states where food insecurity impacts the greatest percentage of residents, and our job growth is among the worst in the U.S.

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The state’s Human Services Department held a hearing in Santa Fe this morning about changes that would add work requirements to the food stamps program. 

Faith leaders from around the state—along with AARP, family advocates and representatives from food banks—spoke against new requirements for SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. They emphasized that hungry people in New Mexico are already looking for work: There just aren’t jobs to be had.

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The state Human Services Department will hear public testimony Friday on proposed changes to SNAP, the state’s food assistance program.  

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.