By Tony Parra
Help is out there for people in need of income support. Many people are just not aware of it or are too shy to ask for it, according to Pamela Hyde, Secretary of the Human Services Department for New Mexico.
“It’s important to us to make everyone aware of the problem,” Hyde said. “It’s in all of our communities in New Mexico. Only 45 percent of the people who qualify for it in Roosevelt County are getting it.”
Hyde said taxes have already paid for the federal funds and if people from Roosevelt County don’t take advantage of it, the money is reverted to the federal funds pool which can be used by other counties and states.
“I think it’s because of the stigma attached to it,” Sherry Molder, Roosevelt County Director of the Income Support Division office in Portales, said. “(Eligible people) don’t want to take welfare. For the most part the families of the children who receive free lunches at schools are eligible.”
There are 511 families in Roosevelt County using food stamps and a total of $1,243,000 in stamps have being distributed in the last year, according to the New Mexico Human Services Department’s Social and Economic Impact report.
Molder said people from all different ages and races apply for food stamps. She also said singles and married couples also apply at the ISD office, located on 1028 Community Way.
She said those who are interested can call 1-800-432-6217 or the local office, 356-4473.
Molder also said the amount of paperwork needed to be filed is less than it was in previous years. She said in most cases applicants would file every three months. She said now people only need to have a face-to-face interview and fill out paperwork after six months in most cases.
Hyde said it’s not only the people who need food stamps who lose out, but also the local businesses.
“It effects the entire community,” Hyde said. “The $1,243,000 in food stamps is spent in local businesses. If double the amount of people who qualify for food stamps apply, that’s an additional $1,000,000 … to the local economy. All of us already paid the taxes. We want people from New Mexico who need it, to get that money.”
A report called the Kids Count report released on Thursday showed that New Mexico had the highest rate of children living in poverty in 2001 and did better overall in the rankings than Mississippi and Louisiana.
“There are still children going hungry,” Hyde said. “It’s hard to believe in this day in age that there is still hunger with all of the technology in the world.”
Personal incomes in the state of New Mexico ranked 46th among the states. The average personal income was 25,541 in 2003, up from the 24,823 amount in 2002, according to a report from the University of New Mexico.
Hyde said the numbers displayed in the report were before Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration. She said the members of the administration have already been taking steps to alleviate the problem.
“The Lt. Gov. Diane Denish has been involved with the Children’s Cabinet,” Hyde said. “They established the Childrens’ Cabinet to address those concerns.”
Denish spoke on Thursday in Santa Fe on what is known as Hunger Awarness Day.
There are 2,005 families using food stamps in Curry County which totaled $4,875,000 over the last year, according to the NMHSD report.