NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The New Mexico Human Services Department (HSD) announced that starting in March, over 500,000 New Mexicans who have been receiving emergency COVID Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, will be going back to regular pre-pandemic benefits.

KRQE News 13 spoke with people who say they’re worried about how this will impact them.  “Well, I think it’s going to be really hard because a lot of people live paycheck to paycheck and like they use that to help them,” says a woman who wanted to remain anonymous.  

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government started giving extra benefits to low-income residents across the country. The money was meant to help individuals buy groceries with their SNAP benefits. 

During the emergency period, a family of three was receiving $740 in SNAP benefits each month, those families will return to receiving an average of $335 per month. A one-person household with no income was receiving $376 each month under the emergency benefit allotment, those households will now be getting $281 per month.

“It’ll impact a lot of people around here, especially in Central Albuquerque. There’s a lot of low-income housing around here, low-income people including myself, so with that reduction, I’m sure a lot of people are going to be struggling to try and get and afford food for themselves,” says UNM student, Jacob Villalobos. 

HSD says one positive is that residents don’t have to worry about losing any unused money.  “Any balance that is there will not go away or be depleted from that card for about a year. So people can reserve some of that balance to kind of help them maybe purchase larger quantity items to store in the freezer,” says Karmela D. Martinez, Director of the Income Support Division for the Human Services Department. 

However, residents say it’s still going to be hard, especially with inflation. “With COVID we saw that they had the resources to help us, so I think it’s kind of unfair that they’re going back on that now just to save them money when they can give it out to people who actually need it,” says a woman who wanted to remain anonymous.  

The HSD says they will continue partnering with local food banks to help low-income families have access to food. All SNAP customers have been notified by mail of the changes to their benefits. “Now more than ever, we encourage the public to support food banks, nonprofits, faith-based partners, and others who have been serving the community,” Interim Acting Secretary for NMHSD Kari Armijo said in a release.

The emergency increase in benefits was approved by the federal government, all households nationally will be returning to their regular amount, including the over 500,000 New Mexicans receiving SNAP benefits.