- Associated Press - Thursday, April 21, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has launched a push to get more eligible families to apply for federally-funded child care assistance and announced Thursday the state will expand eligibility requirements until late May

The Republican governor said the effort is needed to get families to seek assistance for a program that some might not even know exists.

Under the new changes, New Mexico families earning as much as 200 percent of the federal poverty line - an increase from the previous 150 percent - may apply for the child care assistance program.

That’s means a family of four earning around $48,600 or less a year is now eligible. Before the expansion, the same family earning more than around $36,000 a year would not have been eligible for the services.

The program subsidizes the cost of child care for low-income families who are working or going to school and need child care.

“With this expansion, we will be providing safe and reliable child care to more families who need it the most,” Martinez said. “This program is one of our most important resources for helping to prevent child abuse, and I encourage New Mexico families who need it to apply for our child care assistance.”

Previously, around 750 families who had applied for the program but were placed on a waiting list because their income was slightly over eligibility requirements.

New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Secretary Monique Jacobson said many families in one of the nation’s poorest states qualify for child care assistance but don’t know they do.

“It’s not new and we have space,” Jacobson said. “This is about getting people to sign up.”

Jacobson said assistance is offered on a sliding-scale based on income.

Only around 18,000 families in New Mexico currently take advantage of the program, state officials said.

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Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at https://twitter.com/russcontreras . His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/russell-contreras .


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