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Proposed SNAP Changes in New Mexico Draw Opposition

PHOTO: Advocates say the state of New Mexico's effort to expand work requirements under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) could end benefits for tens of thousands of people. Photo courtesy of the Southwest Organizing Project.
PHOTO: Advocates say the state of New Mexico's effort to expand work requirements under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) could end benefits for tens of thousands of people. Photo courtesy of the Southwest Organizing Project.
July 13, 2015

SANTA FE, N.M. - The state of New Mexico Human Services Department is proposing changes to the work rules of the federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also called "SNAP" and formerly food stamps.

Opponents say the action could end benefits for tens of thousands of people and cost taxpayers millions of dollars. Louise Pocock is an attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, which previously sued the state over the proposed changes.

"We're objecting to expanding mandatory work requirements to thousands more SNAP participants when it's not required by federal law," she says.

Pocock says childless adults ages 18 to 50, who are physically and mentally competent, currently are required to enter an employment and training program to be eligible for SNAP benefits.

The Human Services Department is proposing to widen the range, making it ages 16 to 60, and add people with children over age seven who currently are exempt from the employment requirement.

George Lujan, communications organizer with the Southwest Organizing Project, says cutting nutrition assistance will only add more stress to those who are barely getting by.

"It's one in three children in New Mexico that are food insecure, which is really a pretty mind-boggling statistic. It's really hard to even wrap your mind around that - to think that one in three children in the state are hungry and that we're trying to limit SNAP resources."

Matt Kennicott, external affairs director with the Human Services Department, says the rule changes are meant to help people gain employment.

"Really what we're doing is trying to help people become more self-sufficient," says Kennicott. "Our commitment has always been to helping those New Mexicans most in need and we're continuing to fulfill that commitment even through - through these rules."

The state is holding a public hearing on the matter, scheduled for 1:30 p.m., Friday in Santa Fe at the Department of Health in the Harold Runnels Building.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM