The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty is a nonprofit law firm and advocacy organization dedicated to advancing economic and social justice through education, advocacy, and litigation. We work with low-income New Mexicans to improve living conditions, increase opportunities, and protect the rights of people living in poverty.
THE CASE: In the second poorest state in the country, healthcare and food and cash assistance programs, such as Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, and General Assistance, are essential to help low-income families meet their basic needs. If the state improperly denies, discontinues, or reduces those benefits for any reason, the consequences on a family can be devastating. The Fair Hearing process is meant to prevent such improper denial, reduction, or termination of benefits and protect families from losing essential financial, nutritional, and healthcare assistance. It is an essential safeguard for clients.
Unfortunately, New Mexico’s Fair Hearing process is not being properly administered by the state, and clients are often wrongfully denied the benefits for which they are qualified. The New Mexico Human Services Department does not timely provide clients with the Summary of Evidence it will use to justify the adverse action it proposes to take against the client’s benefits at the hearing. As a result, many clients do not have enough time to adequately prepare for the hearing and are far more likely to unfairly lose benefits to which they are entitled. The Human Services Department’s failure to provide a Summary of Evidence in a timely fashion violates statutes and regulations, as well as the Constitution’s due process protection.
The NM Center on Law and Poverty will use the funds from its grant to litigate to improve the Fair Hearing process, specifically, by ensuring clients have access to all the information and evidence they need to meaningfully challenge the state’s termination, reduction, or denial of benefits. We will compel the Human Services Department to come into compliance with the law and ensure that the Fair Hearing process is properly serving clients in need.
Contact: Craig Acorn, Senior Attorney, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, 720 Vassar Dr. NE, Albuquerque, NM 87106.