Editor’s note: To let our community members know what help is available during the novel coronavirus outbreak and response to it, the following list of resources is comprised of information we’ve obtained thus far. It should not be considered exhaustive and is subject to change.

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Organizations operating in the Rio Rancho area are offering various types of assistance to people in need due to the novel coronavirus and social-distancing efforts to stop its spread.

Here are brief descriptions of what’s available and where, according to information from the respective organizations:

State insurance office establishes COVID-19 call center

SANTA FE – New Mexicans with questions about health insurance coverage related to COVID-19 now have a call center for quick answers.

The Office of the Superintendent of Insurance launched the toll-free call center earlier this month. It will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Consumers are urged to call the center at 1-833-415-0566 to learn about their right to have COVID-19 testing and treatment without cost and with questions about:

How to obtain health insurance coverage;

How to resolve grievances associated with premium payments, termination of coverage, claims, benefits denials and surprise billing related to COVID-19; and

How to appeal an insurance decision.

The call center will also guide consumers to proper regulatory oversight agencies for further assistance and provide information about the state’s emergency public health orders and the bulletins, orders and press releases from the Office of Superintendent of Insurance.

Help for equine owners

Animal Protection of New Mexico, the state’s leading advocate for the humane treatment of animals, announces equine emergency feed assistance for those financially affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

Apply online at APNM.org/HorseHelp or call 803-3770.

Any resident of New Mexico with personal horses, mules or donkeys and who is struggling because of COVID-19 or other emergency may apply. Review the application for further guidelines.

Successful applicants can receive one month of feed for up to four personal equines. The organization reserves to right to review each situation and may adjust the amount of feed on a case-by-case basis as needed.

Health-worker and first-responder meals

In appreciation of the health-care workers, police officers, firefighters and emergency-medical workers committed to community health and safety, McDonald’s will offer free “Thank You Meals” April 22 through May 5 at all New Mexico restaurants.

Each Thank You Meal is available at no charge via drive-thru or carry-out at breakfast, lunch or dinner. It will come with a note of appreciation and be served in McDonald’s iconic Happy Meal box, in the hopes of bringing a smile along with food. 

These front-line heroes can show their work badge to receive one of the below Thank You Meal options:

Breakfast: A choice of an Egg McMuffin, Chicken McGriddles or a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit. All options come with any size soft drink, tea or hot coffee, and a hash brown. 

Lunch and Dinner: A choice of a Double Cheeseburger, 6-piece Chicken McNuggets or a Filet-O-Fish sandwich. All options come with any size soft drink, tea or hot coffee, and small fries.


Help for churches

The interdenominational Churches Helping Churches Challenge is offering grants to churches struggling financially due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. To apply or donate, visit churchrelief.org.

Driver documentation and privileges

New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued an order waiving most late fees and other penalties assessed by the Motor Vehicle Division since March 11, when she first issued a state of emergency for New Mexico due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The order requires the Motor Vehicle Division of the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department to temporarily waive fees and penalties incurred due to the social distancing recommendations that closed many MVD offices until further notice.

The waiver applies to motor vehicle registrations, driver’s licenses and other driver and motor vehicle privileges. It also covers drivers required to have a vision or medical report with the MVD.

The waiver will continue through the period MVD offices are closed and for a reasonable period of time after, to be determined by the secretary of the Taxation and Revenue Department.

Late fees and other penalties will still apply if they are incurred before or after the waiver period.

State Police are directed, and local law enforcement is encouraged, not to issue citations for registrations or licenses that expire during the waiver period.

Motorists are still encouraged to use mvdonline.com to take care of the many MVD transactions, including vehicle registration and license renewals (as long as they are not for first-time Real ID licenses), updating address and insurance information, and other services.

The MVD also has set up two email addresses for customers with questions and concerns. One, [email protected], should be used by customers with general questions. The other, [email protected], is dedicated to drivers age 79 and older.

The MVD call center can be reached at 888-683-4636.

Business loans

SBA: The U.S. Small Businesses Administration has updated and simplified the Economic Injury Disaster Loan application and is available for small businesses and nonprofits directly affected by COVID-19.

The New Mexico Small Business Development Centers are assisting businesses with the process and guiding and informing businesses on everything available to help them during the crisis. There is no cost to apply.

Businesses can apply online at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

About the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan:

  • Loans up to $2 million; no payments for 12 months.
  • Small businesses and private nonprofits are eligible.
  • May be used for fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills affected by the disaster.
  • 75 percent interest rate for small businesses without credit available elsewhere; businesses with credit available elsewhere are not eligible.
  • 75 percent interest rate for private nonprofits.
  • Long-term repayments for COVID crisis will be 30 years.

The Small Business Development Centers network of experts is available to help at nmsbdc.org.

Lessening isolation

AARP: New Mexicans now have a place where they can go if they need assistance with daily tasks, want to lend a neighbor a hand or just want to connect with others to combat isolation.

AARP Community Connections, an online platform launched by AARP Innovation Labs, allows users to organize and find local volunteer groups to help pick up groceries, provide financial assistance or lend emotional support to neighbors, friends and loved ones.

We may need be physically isolated, but we don’t have to feel alone,” said Andy Miller, senior vice president of AARP Innovation Labs. “Through this innovative platform, people in need of help from — or who want to offer help to — their communities are empowered to engage.”

AARP Community Connections includes multiple resources to help those who are feeling isolated, depressed, overwhelmed or anxious. Users are able to:

* Request a call from an AARP volunteer or a trained counselor; 

* Create an account with Savo to make connecting with their families easier; and

* Join “The Mighty,” a safe, supportive online community for people facing health challenges and their caregivers.

AARP Community Connections is live and free to use, and AARP membership is not required. For more information, visit aarpcommunityconnections.org.

Clothing assistance

Clare’s Closet: Due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, Clare’s Closet children’s clothing ministry will not be open during its normal hours. 

People who need clothes or diapers for their children can call633-5726 Sunday through Tuesday, or 633-6709 Wednesday through Saturday. A Clare’s Closet volunteer will arrange to meet clients at the closet at St. Francis Episcopal Church, at the corner of Golf Course Road and Cabezon Boulevard.

Support for nonprofits

PNM Resources Foundation: The PNM Resources Foundation is offering $200,000 in grant money for nonprofits with programs working to increase community safety.

Funding will range from $10,000 to $50,000 for each nonprofit recipient, with preference given to organizations that implemented COVID-19 programs for the community’s most at-risk senior population. Nonprofits have until Thursday, April 2, to apply.

The community safety grant is for nonprofits to cover program and operational costs, and to continue delivering much-needed services that keep the community safe now and in the future.

No customer funds are part of the PNM Resources Foundation endowment. Eligible nonprofits must hold a 501(c)3 status from the IRS and be within the areas that PNM and Texas-New Mexico Power serve. For complete grant information, visit PNM.com/community.

Health-care workers assistance

CoronaCare NM: The CoronaCare NM website connects front-line health-care workers and hospital staff to volunteers who support them in the local area.

Corona Care staff members are requesting people less at risk to volunteer by running errands, cooking, babysitting, pet sitting and providing other help, according to a news release on the subject.

Through CoronaCare NM, front-line health-care workers and hospital staff can request help in any of the above areas.

By joining with OneABQ, CoronaCare will be able to offer 48-hour background checks in addition to having a greater scheduling capacity. By using OneABQ’s website to record volunteer hours, the city will receive $25 of federal aid for every hour of volunteering for coronavirus relief.

The CoronaCare NM website, coronacare.nm, is still where front-line health-care workers and hospital staff will go to sign up to receive childcare or general support.

Volunteers who go to the CoronaCare NM website will be redirected to the OneABQ website to sign up. This will ensure that private information necessary for background checks is secure and all background checks can be completed.

The volunteers will still be connected in a one-on-one setting to ensure social-distancing rules are followed.


Absentee ballots for any voter: New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver has opened ​her office’s online absentee ballot portal in light of New Mexico’s ongoing public-health emergency regarding the COVID-19 outbreak. 

The online absentee ballot application portal can be accessed directly at https://portal.sos.state.nm.us/OVR/WebPages/AbsenteeApplication.aspx or through the Secretary of State’s Voter Information Portal, NMvote.org. New Mexico’s primary election will take place on June 2.

“Opening the online absentee portal a month early is just one of the ways my office, and election administrators around the state, are taking steps to ensure safe and efficient elections this year,” said Toulouse Oliver. “Though there will still be in-person voting during the early vote period and on June 2, I encourage voters to utilize an absentee ballot as a way to fulfill your civic duty to vote while also fulfilling your civic duty to practice social distance.”

New Mexico has what’s known as “no-fault” absentee balloting, meaning that any eligible New Mexico voter can request an absentee ballot for any reason. The first day county clerks can mail requested primary election absentee ballots to voters this year is May 5; the last day a voter can request an absentee ballot for the primary election is May 28. 

All absentee ballots may be returned by mail, with postage already paid by the state, to the voter’s county clerk’s office, or in-person at an alternative voting location, mobile alternative voting location or any Election Day polling location no later than 7 p.m. June 2.

The Secretary of State has also set up an FAQ page for absentee ballots at https://www.sos.state.nm.us/2020/03/16/faq-absentee-voting-for-the-2020-primary-election/.

Shopping for vulnerable people:

Albertsons Markets: Albertsons is reserving shopping for seniors age 60 or older and people with weakened immune systems from opening until 9 a.m. on Mondays and Thursdays.

In Rio Rancho, both Albertsons Markets open at 7 a.m.

Big Lots: The store is reserving first hour of every day for seniors and those most vulnerable to COVID-19 virus. The Rio Rancho Big Lots, 1660 NM 528, is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day except Sunday, when it’s open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Dollar General stores: Dollar General is strongly encouraging customers to allow the first hour of operations each day be dedicated solely for senior citizens, one of the groups most vulnerable to COVID-19.

The company wants to provide these at-risk customers with the ability to purchase the items and avoid busier and more crowded shopping periods. Other customers are encouraged to plan their shopping trips around this window of time.

This means senior hours are 9-10 a.m. at the store at 3301 Southern Blvd., Rio Rancho; 8-9 a.m. for the store at 1801 Pine Road, Rio Rancho; and 8-9 a.m. at the store at 160 E. US 550, Bernalillo.

Smith’s Food and Drug Stores: Smith’s Food & Drug Stores is dedicating the first hour on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7-8 a.m. solely to the shopping needs of senior citizens until further notice.

Each store will have staff members on hand to help people who need special accommodations.

For all other customers, temporary store hours will continue to be 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., an early closing to allow time for disinfecting and restocking, until further notice.

The company is also waiving the pick-up fee at the point of transaction for online orders received curbside for customers whose verified age is 60 years and older through April 18. Smith’s will continue to evaluate the situation to see if the fee waiver should be extended.

Target: On Wednesdays, stores will open one hour early for individuals who are elderly or have underlying health conditions. Rio Rancho’s Target, 4225 Crestview Drive, is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Walmart: Starting this week, Walmart stores will host an hour-long senior shopping event every Tuesday for customers aged 60 and older. This will start one hour before the store opens.

Pharmacies and Vision Centers will also be open during this time.

Walmart stores are adjusting hours to 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. to allow for more cleaning.

Utilities and internet service

City of Rio Rancho Water and Wastewater utilities: The Utilities Department will not shut off water until further notice. Recent shut-offs will have services restored with owed amounts assessed in the future, date to be determined.

Late fees will also be temporarily waived on delinquent accounts from March 17 until further notice.

Payments can be made by mail, by calling 891-5211 or at rrnm.gov. For other utilities-related services like setting up a new account, call 891-5020 or email [email protected].

New Mexico Gas Company: A company statement said no customer’s gas service will be disconnected for non-payment, at least through April 6.

Essential work will continue, as well as 24/7 response to gas leaks and emergency calls. Employees are available to provide customer support by phone and online.

Customers are asked to pay bills by postal mail, online at nmgco.com or by calling the customer contact center at 1-888-664-2726.

PNM electricity provider: PNM has suspended electric-service disconnections and late fees for nonpayment until further notice.

Collection and credit reporting for nonpayment have also been suspended. PNM will provide customers with notice before billing and disconnection policies resume. It will also work with customers to establish a payment plan so they don’t have the pay the entire balance at once.

PNM announced it would help pay electric bills for New Mexico customers whose household incomes suddenly fall into a low-income status after their employer cut their hours or closed the doors due to COVID-19.

Through April 30, the PNM Good Neighbor Fund is paying up to $150 toward PNM electric bills for low-income families who call the PNM Good Neighbor Fund provider at 505-967-8045.

For more information on the PNM Good Neighbor Fund, visit PNM.com/community.

Sparklight internet- and cable-service provider: To help ease the financial burden and provide continued connectivity for customers impacted by the novel coronavirus, Sparklight has announced that it has made unlimited data available on all internet services and is waiving late fees until June 30.

It’s offering payment deferrals to customers who call to make arrangements.

Also, Sparklight is opening WiFi hotspots for public use during the coronavirus outbreak to keep individuals and communities connected to the online resources they want and need through June 30. Sparklight’s local WiFi hotspot can be accessed in the Sparklight office parking lot, 7501 Nita Place, Rio Rancho.

The company is additionally offering a 15 Mbps internet plan for $10 per month until June 30 to help low-income families and those most impacted from coronavirus challenges, such as seniors and college students. No documentation will be required to sign up for this plan.

Customers can call 877-692-2253 for more information.

State taxes

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Taxation and Revenue Department Secretary Stephanie Schardin Clarke announced Friday that New Mexicans will have an extra 90 days to file and pay their 2019 personal income taxes in recognition of the economic hardships many are facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Taxpayers will have until July 15 to file and pay any taxes due. The deadline for 2019 corporate income taxes also will be extended until July 15.

In addition, the state is extending deadlines for employers to remit withholding taxes. Withholding taxes normally due on the 25th of March, April, May and June will now be due on July 25.

Taxpayers who take advantage of the income tax extensions will not be assessed penalties as long as payment is received by July 15.

The Taxation and Revenue Department has determined that due to recent IRS action, it will not have to impose interest charges on taxpayers who take advantage of the 90-day extensions announced last week for filing and paying New Mexico personal and corporate income taxes.  However, interest will need to accrue on withholding tax extensions.

The Taxation and Revenue Department also is assigning extra staff to help process income tax returns to expedite the payment of any refunds due to taxpayers who have already filed.

Support for employees with reduced incomes

New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions: Certain workers affected by COVID-19 may be eligible for unemployment benefits.

Workers may be eligible if they’ve been laid off due to the impact of COVID-19, if they’re quarantined or have immediate family who’s quarantined, or if their job hours have been reduced due to the pandemic. More information is at dws.state.nm.us/COVID-19-Info.

The department is waiving work-search requirements for those workers for up to four weeks, although they must file an unemployment certification each week. Initial claims can be made at 1-877-664-6984 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday or at jobs.state.nm.us.

Food for children

Presbyterian Health Services: Rust Presbyterian Medical Center offers free meals to children up to age 18 at the hospital.

Monday through Friday, breakfast is available from 6:30-10 a.m. and lunch is available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Rio Rancho Public Schools: Grab-n-go breakfasts and lunches will be made available to children up to the age of 18 during the three-week school closure. All children must be in the vehicle with the adult picking up the meals in order for school employees to release the meals.

Breakfast and lunch in a grab-n-go format are available at the same time. Locations and times are:

• Rio Rancho Middle School: 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

• Ernest Stapleton Elementary: 11 a.m. to noon.

• Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary: 11 a.m. to noon.

• Puesta del Sol Elementary: 11 a.m. to noon.

• Colinas del Norte Elementary: 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

• Sandia Vista Elementary: 11 a.m. to noon.

• Lincoln Middle School: 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

• Cleveland High School: 12:30-1:30 p.m.

If sites are out of food, people who still need it can call 938-0386.

Food for adults and families

St. Felix Pantry: St. Felix Pantry will be open from 9 a.m. to noon Thursday through Saturday for people to pick up foot. Pantry staff members will institute new sanitation rules and inform guests of the changes.

Sandoval County Senior and Community Centers: Centers have canceled all activities, but will continue to operate drive-thru and home-delivered meal services, and modified transportation and home-based services for seniors.

State of New Mexico Senior & Disabled Adults Food Access Hotline: 1-800-432-2080.

Storehouse West food pantry: Storehouse West will offer drive-up service to its client families needing to pick up foodstuffs, according to a note on the Rio Rancho Public Schools website. The pantry is open during its regular operating hours of 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Mondays and Fridays, and noon to 4:30 p.m. Wednesdays.

Online educational resources

Rio Rancho Public Schools: For parents looking for activities to keep children occupied and provide an educational outlet with schools closed, RRPS has created a child resource webpage at rrps.net, under the COVID-19 information tab.

Also, check the RRPS Facebook page at facebook.com/RioRanchoPublicSchools for posts with other resources.

Fitness at home

To support the thousands of New Mexico families staying home to reduce the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, Albuquerque-based Group HIIT offered free 60-day subscriptions to its fitness website to help people stay active during the pandemic.

Group HIIT co-owner Marlena Shirley said new users will have unlimited access to an online library of more than 300 workouts, including yoga and day-by-day programs designed for individuals, families and children. The workouts require little to no equipment so families can get started immediately, right from home.

Families and individuals looking to start a free 60-day membership are encouraged to go to grouphiit.com/stayhome to get started. In addition to the programs available on its website, Group HIIT regularly posts workouts, inspiration and tips on Instagram and Facebook.

Business support

Bank of America: Small-business clients with Bank of America can get assistance through its Customer Assistance Program, which provides the opportunity to defer payments on loans. Contact the bank for more details.

Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce: The chamber will be available to support the community and businesses throughout the COVID-19 response, so members are invited to call 892-1533 or email [email protected] with any questions or concerns.

New Mexico Economic Development Department: NMEDD created a web page of resources to assist affected businesses at gonm.biz/about-us/covid-19-response. The page contains a suite of information regarding the various loan programs available, including:

• NMEDD loan programs for businesses impacted by COVID-19;

• State and federal resources for businesses impacted by COVID-19; and

• Webinar: Information and Resources for Businesses.

Home loans

Bank of America: Bank of America clients can take advantage of its Customer Assistance Program. The program allows many homeowners the opportunity to defer payments on loans, and consumers can request refunds like overdraft and late fees.

Contact the bank for details.

Child care

New Mexico Caregivers Coalition: To assist with the unexpected hardship of childcare expenses due to school closures, New Mexico Caregivers Coalition is offering immediate $100 Caregiver Emergency Child Care Grants to New Mexico’s caregivers and home-care workers who have a child or children age 12 or younger in child-care settings. 

Eligibility for grants requires:

  • Applicant works in home care;
  • Applicant has at least one child age 12 or younger in child-care settings;
  • Applications must be accompanied by proof of payment for child care services, such as a copy of receipt dated March 9 or later from the provider;
  • Child-care providers recognized under emergency New Mexico public health orders may apply;
  • Applicant may apply up to three times, once each month, since March. New applications must be submitted each month.Applications may be submitted via fax to (505) 393-5101, email to [email protected] or mailed to P.O. Box 297, Bernalillo, NM 87004.Visit the coalition’s website for a grant application.

New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department: During the public health emergency, CYFD will issue  full-time child care assistance contracts to first responders and health-care providers who need child care. Call 1-833-551-0518 to connect with the state’s child care Resource and Referral line or go to cyfd.org to download a child care assistance application.

Also, the state will temporarily register family, friend and neighbor (FFN) providers who may be eligible to receive child care assistance funding; interested parties can call 1-833-551-0518. Temporary FFN providers will be required to complete a background check, as will all family members over the age of 18 living in their home. They will also be required to complete a three-hour online health and safety training and an online CPR training.

The state has a Child Care Resource and Referral line to help families find child care at 1-800-691-9067 or NewMexicoKids.org. Families can also contact their CYFD eligibility specialist via phone or email to let them know they now need full-time care; the team across the state will amend the contracts.

In addition, all parents receiving child care assistance will have their co-pays waived during the public health emergency.

Families who choose to keep their children home during the emergency will not lose their CYFD benefits.

If a child care center closes and families need services, they may transfer their child care benefits to an alternative CYFD-approved provider — and the state will continue paying subsidies to both providers.

YMCA of Central New Mexico: The YMCA of Central New Mexico is hosting a three-week day camp for families in need of child care during the public school closure.

The YMCA recognizes working families and first responders have a pressing need for child care.

The YMCA will have four day-camp locations throughout the Albuquerque area and one in Santa Fe with a capacity to host 45 children per location. The YMCA will take extra precautions, such as a wellness check when a child is dropped off at the site, hand-washing every hour and sanitizing high-touch surfaces and equipment before and after every use.

The YMCA Day Camp Albuquerque locations will be Horn Family YMCA, McLeod Family YMCA, Montezuma Elementary and Sunset View Elementary. In Santa Fe, the Day Camp will be at Chaparral Elementary School.

The YMCA also has availability at the Horn YMCA, Central YMCA and Santa Fe YMCA for infant, toddler and preschool programs.

The cost of the day camp is $120 per week per child. The State of New Mexico is offering to pay this cost for first responders, and the YMCA also offers financial assistance to families in need.

Visit cyfd.org or ymcacnm.org for more information.

Veterans services

New Mexico Department of Veterans Services: Effective March 24, all field offices of the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services will temporarily postpone in-person office visits by veterans and will instead provide veterans’ benefits assistance via telephone, video conference or e-mail.

All previously scheduled in-office visits will be rescheduled.

The move is to comply with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s statewide directive this afternoon that state agencies to further help minimize the spread of the COVID-19.

Veterans or widows/widowers of veterans can work with DVS Veterans Service Officers by:

  • Leaving a message on a VSO’s work phone number. VSO’s regularly check their office phones for messages.
  • Contacting a VSO on his/her mobile phone.
  • Via e-mail.
  • Via video conferencing.

Assistance will be provided on a first-call, first-served basis. Livestream video conferencing can be arranged by contacting the VSO.

Contact information for VSOs in the Rio Rancho area is:

Albuquerque #1 (Karen Abeyta)                                                                           

Office: 346-3986                                                                                               

Mobile: 429-0856                                                                             

[email protected]

Albuquerque #2 (Gordon Schei)

Office/mobile: 346-4810                                                                                   

[email protected]

Other needs

Rio Rancho CV-19 Help Group: Community volunteers will provide no-contact deliveries of essential items to senior citizens, medically fragile and immunocompromised individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Items available include paper towels, facial tissue, toilet paper, sanitizing products, hygiene products and non-perishable food.

To receive deliveries, call 633-6819 or 892-1533, or email [email protected] or [email protected].

To donate supplies or money by cash or check, drop of items at Gospel Light Baptist Church, 1500 Southern Blvd., between 8 a.m. and noon seven days a week, or call 633-6812 to arrange for donation pickup.

The Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce, City of Rio Rancho Mayor’s Office, St. Felix Pantry and Gospel Light Baptist Church are partnering for the service.

Rio Rancho Public Schools: People who need resources, including food, baby formula, medical care, behavioral-health services, etc., may call the Rio Rancho Public Schools District Office hotline at 896-0667 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday through March 26.

Administrative team members will do what they can to connect people to resources and/or put out a call for assistance on their social media and with their partners.

State of New Mexico general information hotline: 1-833-551-0518, for those who have non-health questions about resources and the community.

State of New Mexico Navajo senior citizens hotline: 1-928-871-6868, for seniors living on the Navajo Nation.