How to Apply for Benefits
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Are you having trouble proving your income so that you can access public benefits like SNAP, cash assistance, or Medicaid? Applicants in non-traditional employment situations (for example, employees who are paid in cash) can sometimes run into problems documenting how much they earn. Or do you need help finding the documents that will help prove you are eligible for benefits? Sometimes applicants find it hard to produce the documents the state says it needs to make an eligibility determination and they need help getting them.
The Center has produced a set of new materials designed to help applicants for public benefits with their documentation problems.
You can apply for the following programs and get help quickly if you meet certain guidelines:
- Emergency Food Assistance (“expedited” SNAP): You may be able to get SNAP benefits within 7 days if:
- your income is less than $150 a month and you do not have more than $100 in savings;
- your rent or mortgage plus utilities is higher than your monthly income and savings; or
- you are a migrant workers (this means you travel from place to place to work).
- Medicaid Presumptive Eligibility: Children and pregnant women can immediately get Medicaid coverage for 60 days by submitting an application through ISD or through a healthcare provider that is certified to make “presumptive eligibility” decisions (eg. hospitals, clinics, school nurses, etc.). The coverage starts immediately, but you should also complete the regular Medicaid application within the 60 days to continue getting coverage after that time.
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): Crisis LIHEAP may be able to help you with heating or cooling costs within 48 hours if:
- your service is about to be disconnected;
- your service has already been disconnected; or
- you are out of or low on fuel.
- Applications can be mailed, faxed, or filed in-person at a local Income Support Division (ISD) office. For a listing of the nearest ISD offices, call (505) 827-7250 or visit the Human Services Department website.
- You will need to submit documents with your application that prove identity, income, expenses, residency, etc. For a list of documents, see the ISD Proof Checklist. In many cases, you must also provide the social security number only for the person who will receive assistance (for example, immigrant parents do not need to provide their SSN if they are applying solely on behalf of their citizen children). For Medicaid, you must also provide proof of citizenship or immigration status only for the person who will receive coverage.
- Immigrants: Most public benefits programs are only available to certain qualified immigrants. But there are some programs that provide assistance regardless of immigration status. And remember, household members who are citizens (such as children) can always receive benefits even if their parents or other family members are not qualified for the program.
- SNAP: No later than 30 calendar days after the date of application, or expedited SNAP within 7 days.
- Medicaid: No later than 45 calendar days after the date of application (“presumptive eligibility” for children and pregnant women begins immediately).
- TANF/NM Works: No later than 30 calendar days after the date of application.
- GA: No later than 90 calendar days after the date of application.
- LIHEAP: No later than 30 calendar days after the date of application, and within 48 hours for a crisis.
The following tips can help ensure that your application is processed correctly and efficiently:
- Find all the documents you need for the application, make copies of them, and submit them at one time to avoid repeated trips to the ISD office.
- Always ask for a receipt! The ISD office must provide you with a receipt that lists all the documents that you turned in for the application. This is a very helpful tool for ensuring that your application is not improperly denied.
- Keep copies of every document submitted, and every letter or notice from ISD about the case, including envelopes that show when the document was mailed.
- If you believe that your application was denied improperly, request a fair hearing.
If English is not your primary language, the ISD office must provide you with interpretation services in a language you understand. This assistance is free of cost. If you prefer, you may have a family member or friend interpret for you, but ISD cannot require you to use a family member or friend. ISD must give you the option of receiving interpretation services at no cost.
If you have a physical or mental health disability that makes it difficult for you to complete the application process for any program, you have a right to be assisted in a way that makes it possible. You should tell the application worker the kind of help you need, such as completing forms or gathering documentation or requesting a home or telephone interview instead of coming to the ISD office.
For more information about your rights, we encourage you to read our brochures:
- Know Your Rights (English | Spanish)
- Public Benefits for Immigrants (English | Spanish)
- Your Rights to a Fair Hearing (English | Spanish | Vietnamese)
If you or a family member encounter a problem when applying for public benefits that cannot be resolved with ISD, please contact us for assistance. Please be aware that the Center only provides legal assistance in limited circumstances, and may instead refer you to another agency.