Work requirement could be added to New Mexico's food stamp program

Posted at: 07/30/2014 6:11 PM
By: Kai Porter, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Big changes could be coming to New Mexico's food stamp program. Soon, you might have to start working if you want to keep getting benefits. New Mexico could become one of up to 10 states that will try out a new pilot program. In our state it would mean someone would have to work 20 hours a week to keep getting food stamps, according to the Human Services Department.

"Pretty sure New Mexico is going to be involved in that," Human Services Secretary Sidonie Squier told a congressional panel last week.

U.S. Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-Albuquerque, challenged Squire. She pointed out our state is ranked 48th in job growth and Albuquerque is in a double dip recession.

"I'm trying to understand exactly what you're proposing,” said Lujan Grisham. “When there aren't enough jobs to go around do we tell these kids, ‘I'm sorry you'll be hungry?'”

Gail Evans, a lawyer with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty also thinks mandatory work requirements for food stamps is a bad idea.

"Making families go out and apply for jobs that aren't there just so that they can feed their children means that we are going to lose families on the Food Stamp Program,” she said. “It means that we're going to have more hunger in our state."

But the Human Services Department says you would be able to fill the 20 hour per week work requirement in 3 ways. Either by getting a job, doing community service, or participating in on-the-job training. The department says it would also provide job placement services. The states that will participate in the Food Stamp Work Demonstration are chosen by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.

New Mexico would have to apply. The Human Services Department says it's still considering whether or not it will apply.