- Associated Press - Friday, October 31, 2014

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - A state court on Friday temporarily stopped Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration from imposing work-related requirements on about 80,000 low-income New Mexicans to qualify for food stamps.

The requirements were scheduled to go into effect on Saturday, although the Human Services Department said no New Mexican faced the potential loss of benefits until January at the earliest.

One planned change would have required low-income parents and other caregivers of children age 6 and older to search for a job or take other steps, such as participating in community service, to obtain the food assistance.

District Judge Sarah Singleton scheduled a hearing next Thursday to decide whether to keep her order in place longer while the court considers whether the agency’s planned food stamp requirements are valid.

Her ruling came in a lawsuit by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, the Southwest Organizing Project and several food stamps recipients. They sued the state this week, contending that the department didn’t follow proper procedures for adopting regulations to change the food stamp program.

The state had suspended a 20-hour-a-week work requirement for childless adults in 2009 because of the national recession. The department planned to restore that mandate, but on-the-job training and community service also could help meet it.

About 455,000 New Mexicans receive food stamps, which provide a maximum monthly benefit of $194 for an individual and $649 for a family of four.

The state had planned to start the work-related requirements in Bernalillo, Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, Sandoval, Santa Fe and Valencia counties, and then implement them in 22 other counties next year.

The state was going to exempt food-stamp recipients in the Navajo Nation, some other Indian tribes and pueblos and several counties with high unemployment.

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