ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – A new set of requirements for New Mexicans who use supplemental food assistance programs are set to go into effect soon. However, a non-profit law firm is suing the state’s Health Services Department claiming they did not follow the law.
The lawsuit filed Monday said the Human Services Department kept the changes from New Mexicans and cut them out of the loop.
“They are certainly not lax and they are not required by federal law,” Sovereign Hager, a staff attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty said. “New Mexico would be the state with the highest unemployment, highest poverty to implement these kinds of changes and the department didn’t even follow proper law in changing the rules.”
Attorneys said the changes to programs like SNAP could potentially affect up to 80,000 people. One in five New Mexicans currently receives some type of food assistance.
The lawsuit claims those changes, which were adopted the first of the October, were illegal. It also claims it kept low-income families from participating in the rule-making process.
Matt Kennicott, a spokesperson with the Human Services Department, said that the new changes are not strict and called the lawsuit baseless.
The new requirements mean that any able-bodied adult without children who is capable of work must be working, looking for work, doing community service or job training in order to continue receiving food stamps. Those with children older than 6 must also be looking for work.
Kennicott said the changes get rid of requirements that were only temporary.
“The 2009 waiver that this rule is removing was never meant to be permanent and our goal is to help more New Mexicans become self-sufficient, earn job training skills and find employment quite frankly,” Kennicott said.
Attorneys with the Center on Law and Poverty asked for a temporary restraining order on the changes. They hope that will keep the changes from going into effect while this plays out in the courts.
The Human Services Department said the first wave of changes is set to go into effect Nov. 1.