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Food Stamp Injunction

Food Stamp Injunction

A federal court judge has barred the New Mexico Human Services Department from reimposing work requirements on food stamp recipients through the end of the year, a move that keeps 17,500 people from losing their benefits.

Judge Bars State From Imposing Food Stamp Work Requirements

BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI

A federal court judge has barred the New Mexico Human Services Department from reimposing work requirements on food stamp recipients through the end of the year, a move that keeps 17,500 people from losing their benefits.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Gonzales issued the injunction on Monday evening. It bars the imposition of the requirements through Dec. 31, his office said.

The injunction had been sought by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, which wanted to prevent the state from reimposing the work requirements and their associated time limits until they could be implemented without causing eligible recipients to lose their food assistance.

“We are pleased that unemployed adults will not face the illegal loss of food assistance in addition to the economic hardship that many are already facing in New Mexico,” NMCLP staff attorney Sovereign Hager said in a news release.

NMHSD spokesman Kyler Nerison wasn’t immediately available for comment.

The work requirements apply to childless adults ages 18-49 without a disability. They require those recipients to spend 20 hours a week in “approved work activity” (working, volunteering or searching for a job). Recipients who don’t meet those requirements can get food stamps for just three months in a 36-month period. The requirements have been part of the food stamp program since they were approved by Congress in 1996.

During the recession, though, states were allowed to waive work requirements because people couldn’t find jobs. However, as the economy improved, the feds advised many states that their waivers were ending. At least 22 states are reimposing the work requirements this year.

According to a recent report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, New Mexico is one of four states that remain eligible for statewide waivers.

As of Jan. 31, 514,298 New Mexicans received food stamp assistance, a 9.7 percent increase from the same time last year.

Dennis Domrzalski is news editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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Ashley Kurtz is a freelance theater critic.

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