New Mexico announces utility and school meal assistance
New Mexico's Human Services Department made back-to-back announcements Monday providing low-income households assistance with rising utility costs and coverage of summer meals for qualifying public school students.
Residents approved for the Low Income Home Energy Program between October of last year and September of this year will share in $10.9 million of aid, paid directly to their utility providers. Funding for the program comes from the federal American Rescue Plan.
LIHEAP is a $3.8 billion federal program managed by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. Individuals do not apply for the program, but rather states, territories and tribal entities which allocate the assistance to households. Recipients receive one payment for the year to help with household heating and cooling costs.
Besides the state of New Mexico, Native American nations within the state receiving LIHEAP funding include theJicarilla Apache Nation and the pueblos of Jemez, Laguna, Nambé and Zuni.
The HSD said customers should ensure their current contact information, including phone number, is on file with the agency, and said updated information can be provided online via http://yes.state.nm.us. Questions or requests for assistance can be made by telephone at 800-283-4465 Mondays through Fridays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Meanwhile, over $89 million will be allocated to the families of 227,735 students for summer school meals provided in June and July of this year.
Children who qualified for free or reduced meals, either through the National School Lunch Program or because their school was eligible for free meals during the last school year, will be issued a single payment of $391 to their Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) cards to cover the summer meals.
The P-EBT program issues cards to school children that can be used to purchase food. State Human Services Deputy Secretary Angela Medrano said in a statement, "The goal of Summer P-EBT is to help provide good nutrition to New Mexico's children for the months they are not in school due to the summer break."
The department said students do not need to be receiving SNAP benefits to qualify for the cards.
Families may check to see if their child qualified for the new payment online via https://www.yes.state.nm.us/yesnm/pandemic/pebt, or simply going to https://www.yes.state.nm.us, scrolling down, and click the box that says "Pandemic EBT Verification."
On Monday, the page was not yet available, stating, "The system is currently under maintenance. Please try again later." The P-EBT hotline is available for questions at 833-415-0569, and the HSD telephone hotline listed above is also a resource for P-EBT
Families were also advised to keep their child's P-EBT cards, even if they had reported a change of address. When parents or guardians report a new address at the school, a new card is to be mailed to their household between Sept. 18 and 26, with delivery anticipated to take up to 10 days.