ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico will pay the federal government more than $19 million to settle a claim by the Department of Agriculture that the state mishandled the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and overpaid some needy families in 2014 and 2016, a newspaper reported Tuesday.
The Albuquerque Journal said in a copyright story that the state has agreed to spend about $15.8 million over the next three years to strengthen administration of the SNAP program.
New Mexico’s Human Services Department also will pay the federal government about $3.6 million, bringing the total cost of the settlement to almost $19.4 million.
Human Services Secretary David Scrase told the Journal that the state Legislature has already authorized the funding necessary to cover the first year of the settlement.
“We’ve reestablished a trusting relationship between ourselves and the USDA,” Scrase said Monday.
Federal officials initially sent the state a bill for nearly $164 million. New Mexico disputed that it had overpaid benefits anywhere near that much.
According to the Journal, federal officials accused New Mexico of certifying applicants as eligible without proper verification, incorrectly keeping applications pending beyond a deadline and improperly paying retroactive benefits.
The newspaper said New Mexico acknowledged liability of about $7 million.