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.
Rules went into effect at the start of the year that would force some adults working less than half time off food stamps after three months. So without court intervention, some people could have lost their food assistance as early as the end of March.
Sovereign Hager with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty said there’s been a lot of back and forth about these work requirements. But for now, she says, the bottom line is the state can’t deny people Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits because of failure to comply.
"One of our arguments was that our clients should not need an attorney to get food assistance," she said. "I think people should feel confident that they can access SNAP."
The Human Services Department, which oversees SNAP, issued a statement saying the ruling keeps them from helping about 11,000 people get job training and look for employment. "We are disappointed with the judge’s ruling," spokesperson Kyler Nerison wrote in an email. "It was misplaced, delays New Mexico's ability to move forward and we plan to explore every opportunity to challenge it."
The court’s injunction will be in place until the end of the year.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated to include additional comment from the Human Services Department.