SNAP benefits delayed for some New Mexicans

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – More people, including college students, have qualified for SNAP benefits because of the public health emergency. Many families that qualify are also getting more money than before, which can be helpful with rising food prices.

Except about 20,000 cases haven’t been processed by the state, according to the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty.

“In December of last year, this flexibility to extend SNAP benefits without reprocessing the whole application ended,” said Vernice Peregrino Pompa with NMCLP. “So since that happened in December, there has been a huge backlog in SNAP cases, because there’s just been a big number of cases that need to be processed at the same time.”

The Center on Law and Poverty said they are getting calls about clients waiting hours or having their calls dropped and not getting a call back. There’s even stories of families going hungry because the benefits they qualify for haven’t been re-approved.

“We heard from one client for example, told us that he had only $1.90,” said Peregrino Pompa. “He said the day that I spoke to him that that day he had to choose between whether his dog ate or whether he ate, and that he had chosen his dog.”

Peregrino Pompa said these are people who qualify for these benefits under the public health emergency, have submitted their paperwork, and are just waiting for a response.

“The phone system is overwhelmed,” she explained. “We have state agency data that shows that up to 40% of calls aren’t answered.”

KOB 4 reached out to the New Mexico Human Services Department and was told the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services eliminated waivers related to the pandemic in January, which caused a temporary backlog in processing recertifications.

In a statement, the Human Services Department said:

“HSD is making strides to improve efficiencies for our customers and working diligently to process customer information and eliminate this temporary backlog.”

The state says New Mexicans who receive SNAP food benefits will continue to get the maximum amount for their household size, but that will expire 30 days after the end of the public health emergency is announced.