Got Kids? 5 New Mexico Programs to Save Your Family Money
Raising children is expensive. The cost of child care alone is enough to strain many families’ budgets. Add rent, utilities, and groceries (for that growing 6-year-old who suddenly wants third helpings), and it’s easy to find your budget stretched thin. But there’s help. Federal and state programs for families in New Mexico can help you afford food, internet, housing, and child care. Plus, recent changes to the tax rules mean that many New Mexico families will get more money back at tax time, and could even start receiving payments next month.
Not sure where to begin? We’re here to help by highlighting the five programs that can save New Mexico families the most money this summer:
Free Lunch and Breakfast
People sometimes say there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But for New Mexico kids in the summer, there’s free lunch all over the state. New Mexico provides free meals to kids in parks, community centers, and other sites statewide. All children from age 1 to 18 qualify, regardless of income. This is one of the easiest programs in New Mexico to use—there’s no sign-up or paperwork, kids just show up and eat! Kids must be present to claim their meals, and meals need to be eaten at the site. Some sites serve just lunch, while others serve breakfast and lunch. Check out these websites to learn more about the program, and to find a meal site near you.
Help Paying for Internet
So, you made it through a year of distance learning. Maybe you and your kids are taking some well-deserved time away from your screens. But you probably still need a good internet connection. COVID-19 showed us how important the internet is for connecting our families to work, school, friends, and family. Many New Mexico families qualify for a program that helps you save money on your internet bill or a new device. Qualifying families can get $50 per month off their internet bill (even more if they are on Tribal lands) and can also save $100 on a new device such as a computer or tablet. How to apply? Visit this website to learn more details and to see if your family will qualify.
You should look at your family’s exact situation, but here’s a quick tip: If you have a school-age child and they get free or discounted meals at school, your family likely qualifies! The same website also has everything you need to know to apply for the discounts and find an internet provider in your area.
Rent and Mortgage Help
For many families, COVID-19 changed everything. If your family was financially impacted by the pandemic and struggled to make housing and utility payments, help is available. For renters, qualifying families can receive up to 15 months of rent and utility assistance. Check here to learn more about eligibility and to apply.
If you own your home, New Mexico also offers help with past due mortgage payments to help keep you and your family in your home. The mortgage program covers up to $10,000 in mortgage costs for families who were financially impacted by COVID-19 and meet these income guidelines (they are different from the renter guidelines). To learn more about the mortgage program and apply, visit this website.
Free Child Care
If housing is the largest monthly expense for most households, child care is close behind. Luckily, more New Mexico families than ever are eligible for a program that pays for the cost of care. Child care assistance is a state program that pays for child care in the setting you choose. So, whether your child is cared for in a child care center, in a home-based setting, or even by a relative who registers with the state, child care assistance can cover those costs. Check out our previous blog post all about child care assistance, or this state website with more details.
Most of us don’t like to think about taxes. But we do like cash, and some extra money is on the way for families with children, thanks to important changes to U.S. and New Mexico tax rules. First, the feds: Changes to the national Child Tax Credit mean many families with young children will start seeing monthly payments appear in their bank accounts in July. For most New Mexico families, the Child Tax Credit will mean monthly payments of $300 each month per child under age 6, and $250 per month for older kids (age 6-17). Most families don’t have to do anything to start receiving their payments. If you filed taxes for 2019 or 2020, or signed up to receive a stimulus check during the pandemic, you’re all set. If you haven’t filed taxes in awhile and didn’t sign up for a stimulus check, go to this website to get signed up. For more details on how the Child Tax Credit works, there is great information here and here.
Wait, didn’t some families get $600 tax rebates this spring? Yes, and those are different. This spring, $600 rebates went out to many families who had claimed New Mexico’s Working Families Tax Credit on their 2020 taxes. This is a state credit that benefits many families in New Mexico with young children, and it will be worth even more next year. This year, New Mexico lawmakers made some changes to the Working Families Tax Credit: It’s worth more money (the amount varies per family), it can now be claimed by taxpayers without a Social Security Number, and it can now be claimed by adults as young as 18. So, put a sticky note on your fridge or on that pile of paperwork you keep meaning to file: Next tax season, make sure to see if your family qualifies for the Working Families Tax Credit. It could mean thousands of dollars back from the state and into your pockets. Here’s a video with some highlights, some more details, or you can call the New Mexico Tax Call Center at 1-866-285-2996 if you have specific questions about your tax situation.