KUNM

David Scrase

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People who apply for food and medical assistance programs in New Mexico got used to long waits, mysterious denials, and catch-22s of bureaucracy. But after years of litigation, wait times are way down and a notorious backlog of cases is pretty much cleared. The new Human Services Department secretary has his eye on updating tech to make the whole system easier and more foolproof.

The central question in a two-decade federal court case is whether New Mexico’s Human Services Department is distributing SNAP and Medicaid fast enough and to the right people. A new boss was appointed to HSD in January. KUNM heard from Secretary David Scrase about the changes he’s making.

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For years, there’s been a fight in court about whether the state of New Mexico is following federal law when it comes to distributing food and medical assistance to almost half a million people here. Advocates told a federal judge this week that the state Human Services Department is still illegally denying SNAP and Medicaid to some eligible families. KUNM spoke with Maria Griego Thursday, May 16, right after the court hearing in Las Cruces. Griego is an attorney with The Center on Law and Poverty, and she explained what the state is doing wrong.