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 families with children are eligible for some extra money, thanks to important changes to U.S. and New Mexico tax rules.
First, the feds:
The Child Tax Credit, part of the American Rescue Plan, was distributed through direct payments to families from July 2021 - November 2021. For most New Mexico families, the Child Tax Credit meant monthly payments of $300 each month per child under age 6, and $250 per month for older kids (age 6-17). Most families didn’t have to do anything to start receiving their payments, they were deposited directly to bank accounts. While direct deposit of the Child Tax Credit has been paused in 2022, you will be able to claim the full amount of the Child Tax Credit for your child on your 2021 tax return. Find out more about claiming the credit on your taxes here.
But wait, didn’t some families get $600 tax rebates from the state of New Mexico in 2021, too? Yes, and those were different. $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. It can now be claimed by taxpayers without a Social Security Number, and it can now be claimed by adults as young as 18. This 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. Learn more about it here or you can call the New Mexico Tax Call Center at 1-866-285-2996 if you have specific questions about your tax situation.