How to Apply for Public Benefits

  • 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

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 here.

  • If you are only applying for Medicaid, visit here.
  • If you are only applying for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, visit here.
  • If you are applying for Childcare Assistance, visit here.
  • If you are applying for Unemployment Insurance, visit here.

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.

  • 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.

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.

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.

Find Legal Help

The civil legal services system in New Mexico is an informal network of non-profit organizations, agencies, law-firms, and individuals who seek to ensure that low-income New Mexicans have access to justice. Civil legal services are legal and law-related services designed to help low-income individuals, families, and communities solve civil (non-criminal) legal problems that they experience. The civil legal services system helps low-income people defend and assert important legal rights that often involve the most fundamental aspects of life–personal and family safety, homeownership and shelter protection, healthcare, and economic security.

New Mexico Legal Aid helps low-income New Mexicans and their families maintain fundamental legal rights, protecting their livelihoods while ensuring health, safety, and security. Their legal services are intended to help clients at and below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines and victims of domestic violence, regardless of income. Services are available regardless of language, age, gender, education, and physical/mental limitations.  Call 833-545-4357.

  • Advocacy, Inc. provides assistance in uncontested legal guardianship services to low-income caregivers raising children whose parents are unable or unwilling to care for them. It offers four programs designed to fill the legal needs of children in Bernalillo County:
    • guardianship legal services;
    • adoption legal services;
    • Guardian ad Litem services; 
    • information, referral, and training.

Call: 1-866-257-5320

  • Catholic Charities provides free legal immigration services and representation to eligible immigrants to help them apply for legal status for themselves and their children under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The project provides intake and assessment of the domestic violence and the overall situation, then prepares all the necessary documents to take the case to the Immigration and Naturalization Services or the Executive Office for Immigration Review. Call: 505-247-0442

  • Disability Rights New Mexico provides legal assistance to people with disabilities and mental illness. It provides both direct services to individuals and systemic services that impact groups of New Mexicans with disabilities. The DNA Protection and Advocacy program serves people with disabilities on the Navajo reservation. Call: 1-800-432-4682

  • DNA People’s Legal Services works to protect civil rights, promote tribal sovereignty, and provide general legal services to low-income people, primarily in San Juan County and on the Navajo and Jicarilla reservations.  DNA has four offices in New Mexico. DNA Protection and Advocacy System serves people with disabilities on the Navajo reservation: 1-800-862-7271

  • NM Immigrant Law Center provides legal advice, representation, and advocacy to immigrants and aspiring citizens living in New Mexico. Call: 505 247-1023

  • Pegasus Legal Services for Children provides comprehensive legal services to children, youth, and their caregivers, including direct representation, community legal education, and policy advocacy. The issues that they help with include children’s right to appropriate public education (including education needs of children with disabilities and children in foster care), kinship guardianship, family law for young parents, access to physical and mental health care, transition from foster care to young adulthood, and child abuse and neglect. Call: 1-800-980-1165

  • United South Broadway Corporation works to address affordable housing opportunities, commercial revitalization, crime prevention, and youth development. The organization is a HUD-certified housing counseling agency with experienced bilingual staff and has a statewide foreclosure defense project.  Their Fair Lending Center provides in-house legal services and direct legal representation for homeowners at risk of losing their homes. Call: 505-764-8867

  • Senior Citizens’ Law Office provides free civil legal services to Bernalillo County residents more than 60 years of age, especially concerning the following issues: income maintenance, guardianship/conservatorship, power of attorney and other advance directives, issues of financial exploitation, landlord-tenant and public housing problems, consumer issues, health-related issues, and long-term care issues. Most of the clients served are low-income individuals. The Senior Citizens’ Law Office also provides systemic advocacy on a wide variety of elder law issues. Call: 505-265-2300

  • Southwest Women’s Law Center provides legal advocacy to address gender-related poverty issues and to improve opportunities for low-income women. In general, SWLC does not provide individual representation. Call: 800-244-0542

  • State Bar of New Mexico Lawyer Referral for the Elderly is a free, statewide helpline for New Mexico residents age 55 and older. Attorneys provide legal assistance and referrals to seniors around New Mexico, particularly outside of Bernalillo County. Call: 800-876-6657

  • State Bar General Referral Program is the general referral and assistance program of the State Bar of New Mexico. For low-income people, referrals may be pro bono or reduced fee. The program accepts some of the overflow cases that New Mexico Legal Aid is unable to take.

  • State Bar of New Mexico Young Lawyers Division (YLD) of the State Bar of New Mexico sponsors two Homeless Legal Clinics. Volunteers provide pro bono legal services and pro bono referrals to homeless persons at the Health Care for the Homeless location in downtown Albuquerque and at the Mesilla Valley of Hope in Doña Ana County. Many services are brief services. Others require more extensive work and are referred to volunteers who have agreed to accept referrals from the Clinic.

  • UNM Law School Clinical Law Program provides services to faculty, students, and income eligible clients under the supervision of faculty members. Students represent low-income clients in a range of legal matters, including: landlord-tenant, consumer, family law, zoning, environmental, and wills. Additionally, the program operates a Southwest Indian Law Clinic serving American Indian communities and individuals.

  • Keep Your Home New Mexico Program is a cooperative effort of several non-profit New Mexico organizations including United South Broadway Corporation, New Mexico Legal Aid, Senior Citizens’ Law Office, DNA Peoples’ Legal Services, Independent Living Resource Center and others.  The program provides direct foreclosure prevention services to New Mexico homeowners who are struggling with their mortgage or facing foreclosure.  This website is also duplicated in its entirety in Spanish.

Domestic Violence Legal Hotline: 505-243-4300

HIV/AIDS Legal Helpline: 1-800-982-2021