New Mexico applies for federal restaurant aid through EBT program

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The COVID-19 pandemic has hit New Mexicans and New Mexico restaurants hard. Now, the state is hoping to help them both with changes to the EBT rules. The state just applied for federal approval to allow certain people to use their EBT credits on prepared meals at grocery stores and restaurants, which currently isn’t allowed. 

Pat Keen, the owner of Artichoke Cafe said she appreciates the effort. “I’m fine with it, a lot of people are on assistance right now, it’s a good thing to use it in more places,” said Keene.

The state’s Human Services Department said there are nearly 250,000 families receiving SNAP food benefits in New Mexico.

However, this program would not support all SNAP users. Officials said it would only apply to individuals or households that meet one or more of the following conditions: having a disability, being older than 60, or are homeless which is nearly 40% of SNAP users in the state. The state believes this program will give those groups more options for food, while restaurants could potentially gain more customers. 

“This is a population that may otherwise not have been able to participate or patronize these establishments,” said Karmela Martinez, Director of Income Support Division. “So now that they can actually pay with their existing EBT card these participating restaurants  can now receive the revenue in the form of  payment with that EBT card.”

The program is not official yet. The state is working with the federal agency, Food and Nutrition Services to get the program approved. If it does get approved, restaurants will be able to apply to participate through the State Income Support Division. The state hopes to find out if the program is approved in the next month or so. 

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