Oh Snap! Students benefit from new S.N.A.P. rules

By Guadalupe Santos-Sanchez, Senior Reporter
Students who are enrolled in a Career Technical Education program (CTE) at CNM may now qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, said CNM Connect achievement coach at CNM Connect, Sally Moore.
Simply being enrolled in a CTE program serves as a qualification for SNAP benefits and students are not required to have a work requirement, she said.
“Most students when they go to the Human Services Department (HSD) are often being told that, no matter what, they have to be working 20 hours a week, but there are eight other ways that students can qualify beyond work¬ing,” she said.
They can just be students, go to school full time, and not have to work 20 hours a week, she said.
If students are enrolled in a Career Technical Education program, or are over 50 years old, or are working 20 hours a week, they may qualify for SNAP benefits, she said.
All employees at the CNM Connect Centers are trained to help people with their SNAP application, she said.
Students can complete their application online on the yesnewmexico.org website, she said.
Their application will be date stamped and when they submit it to HSD they can prove that they did apply, she said.
Online they can also check the status of their claim and or request for benefits, and even if they didn’t apply online they can also do their renewal online, she said.
It is beneficial if they pick up a Financial Aid and Budget verification form at a Connect Center or Financial Aid office, she said.
They only fill the top part of the form and then take it to Financial Aid, where Financial Aid and Admissions fills in the remaining sections of the form. Students can then pick up the form at Records and submit it online, she said.
“The Center of Law and Poverty is just an excellent source if the student believes that they should receive benefits but they weren’t awarded,” she said.
Students can fax in an appeal if they’ve been denied; all the Connect Centers also have appeal forms and brochures about knowing your rights but only law and poverty can assist with the appeal, she said.
And usually HSD will want to settle before the hearing, she said.
“Sometimes it’s just that the HSD worker wasn’t trained or didn’t remem¬ber, and the student will be awarded through the hearing process,” she said.
Students have to appeal within a certain number of days after applying, she said.
Students can request a hearing up to 90 days of the date they were noti¬fied. If they want to keep their regular benefits until the hearing they must request a hearing by the 13th day
“This new rule is a huge advantage, students really need this money,” Moore said.
There may be as many as six or seven thousand students who qualify that are not currently getting benefits, she said.
“Many students have so much trouble juggling family, school, and work,” she said.
SNAP benefits can mean that students may not have to work and they can really thrive in their schooling, she said.
They can comprehend the material better because they will be eating better and will not stress trying to get to work, she said.
This is important because SNAP provides students with a regular source of nutrition assistance. Without food students cannot study, learn, pay atten¬tion, or graduate, said Louise Pocock, staff attorney with New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty.
“While students are in school they are still impoverished and they need assistance, and I think Congress was aware of that,” Moore said.
The general rule is that college students are not eligible for SNAP, and over the years congress has created many exceptions to that rule so that low-income college students use food stamp benefits as a resource to help them complete school, Pocock said.
In the 2014 farm bill, congress created a new exception that allows any student in a CTE course to qualify for food stamps, assuming that they meet income and New Mexico residency requirements, she said.
New Mexico HSD has pledged to begin applying the exception as of September 19, 2014, she said.
Many students who come to community colleges are already in poverty and are coming to college to get out of poverty, Moore said.
“That’s the intent of food stamps, to help people take the rough edges off poverty and to enable people to eventually thrive,” she said.
About half of the students who attend CNM receive financial aid, she said.
“So if they’re receiving financial aid, they have a financial need, what level of poverty that is I’m not familiar with,” she said.
A living wage and poverty are two different things, she said.
The measure used for poverty no longer works to identify whether or not a person can live on the income that they receive, she said.
When the measurement of poverty was created, it said that one-third of the funds that a person spends would be towards food, she said.
“Now food is a much smaller amount of the total funds that are spent. People now have to buy car insurance and health insurance. Prices have gone up; school tuition has gone up, costs of books, gas, living expenses, deposits, utilities have all gone up,” she said.
So much has increased that students have a very difficult time maintain¬ing and meeting
In the fall students have to be able to budget the funds that they receive in September all the way through February because they are not going to get their spring semester funds until three weeks after the semester starts, she said.
“I know that a lot of students here don’t have housing and they’re hungry,” Moore said.