How to Apply for Public Benefits

What Public Benefits are offered in New Mexico?

  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps)
  • Special supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, or NM Works)
  • General Assistance
  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • Childcare Assistance
  • Unemployment Insurance Benefits


How can I apply?

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.

The application form is available at:

If you are only applying for Medicaid, visit:

If you are only applying for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, visit

If you are applying for Childcare Assistance, visit

If you are applying for Unemployment Insurance, visit

You will need to submit documents with your application that prove identity, income, expenses, residency, etc. For a list of documents, see page 16 of the benefits paper application form. In many cases, you must also provide a Social Security Number for the person who will receive assistance. Please note that parents who are applying for benefits for their eligible citizen children must provide the child’s SSN, but do not need to provide a Social Security Number for themselves or for other non-applicant household members. Medicaid applicants must also provide proof of citizenship or immigration status for the person who will receive coverage, but not for parents or other non-applicant family members.

Most public benefits programs are available only 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.


When can I expect to receive my benefits?

  • SNAP: No later than 30 calendar days after the date of application, or emergency 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.


What if I need assistance immediately?

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 worker (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.


What can I do to make sure my application is processed correctly?

The following tips may help your application go more smoothly:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. If you believe that your application was denied improperly, request a fair hearing.

Know your rights:

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 help completing forms or gathering documentation. You may also request a home or telephone interview instead of coming to the ISD office.

If you or a family member encounter a problem when applying for public benefits that cannot be resolved with ISD, please contact us at (505) 255-2840 for help. Please be aware that the Center only provides legal assistance in limited circumstances, and may instead refer you to another agency.