General Assistance

Updates:

Benefit Reduction
General Assistance benefits were cut nearly 10% effective July 1, 2009.

Program Restructure
On December 1, 2009, the GA program was restructured and the GA regulations were modified significantly. Read the revised regulations. The following outlines the major changes. However, this is not an exhaustive list of the changes made.

  • Application Processing Timeframe: In the past, applications were supposed to be processed within sixty days. However, the Department had the authority to simply delay the application when it did not meet the sixty day timeframe. As a result, numerous applications were pending for six months or more.
  • Under the restructure, applications must be processed within ninety days and cannot be indefinitely delayed by the Department. The applicant may request up to three, ten-day extensions for providing verification. In addition, if an applicant is not found to be sufficiently disabled to qualify for benefits, the applicant may request reconsideration within fifteen days of the denial, and will be provided thirty days from the denial to submit additional medical evidence. Applications will be delayed rather than automatically denied if a determination has not been made by the ninetieth day due to a Department failure. See §8.106.110.12 and §8.100.130.11(C). Remember, the caseworker must make an eligibility decision within three working days of receipt of all necessary verification. See §8.100.130.11.
  • Disability Categories and Certification Periods: In the past, disabled adults were certified based on a time-limited disability, temporary disability, or permanent disability. These categories have been abolished. Under the newly structured program, disabled adults will be certified under a set or variable term. See §8.106.120.8(C) and §8.106.420.8(F).
  • In the past, applicants could be approved based on a time-limited disability based on a physician’s statement. This helped applicants quickly get badly needed GA benefits by simply submitting a form signed by a physician indicating they had a disability, when collecting medical documents would create a delay in receipt. The time-limited disability category and process has been eliminated. However, a similar alternative method for quickly making a determination has been established. See §8.106.420.8(C). It is unclear at this time when the Department will use this alternative method.
top

About General Assistance:

The General Assistance (GA) program provides meager amounts of monthly cash assistance to low-income disabled adults and certain dependent children not related to their caregiver.

I pray to God you never have to be in this position.
I am disabled so I
rely on GA to help pay my rent. When my benefits were cut off I became
homeless.

General Assistance is a state-funded program that serves about 2,400 New Mexicans. The maximum monthly benefit amount for a single person is $245. Receiving the maximum benefit amount for a full year provides a recipient with less than 30% of the federal poverty level. Many recipients use this very limited benefit to meet basic needs like transportation to and from medical appointments and to purchase medication.

-

top

How to Apply for General Assistance:

top

Know Your Rights:

By following a few tips when applying for General Assistance, you 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 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.
  • Remember – if you have difficulty completing the application process because your primary language is not English, HSD must provide translation and interpretation services to you at no cost.

For more information about your rights, we encourage you to read our brochures:

If you, or a family member or client, encounter problems when applying for SNAP that cannot be resolved with the Human Services Department, please contact the Center on Law and Poverty for assistance. However, please note that the Center provides legal assistance in limited circumstances, and may instead provide a referral to another agency.

top

Our Advocacy on General Assistance:

The Center works closely with state government, legislators, poverty advocates, and community organizations to protect and improve the General Assistance program through both legislative and administrative channels. Advocacy includes:

  • Advocating for sufficient funding to prevent cuts to the program.
  • Advocating for HSD to have carry-over authority within the program. Many receiving GA are waiting for their SSI application to be approved, therefore making it an interim assistance program for these individuals. When a GA recipient is approved for SSI, the state is effectively paid back the assistance provided during the pendency of the SSI application. This is a valuable, but fluctuating and unstable, revenue source that can lead to roller-coaster like revenue flows. Having carry-over authority provides more funding stability. When HSD did not have carry-over authority, when it received a large amount of SSI reimbursement at the end of the year, it had to quickly spend the money to prevent it from reverting to the state.
top

RESOURCES

Factsheets:
Brochures:
Media:
Links:
top