Large Numbers of Children Lack Access
- The Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) estimated in 2018 that 11,000 eligible children were not being served by child care assistance, and the enrollment has not changed substantially since then.
- But, in 2019 the US DHHS estimated that New Mexico only serves about 33 percent of the children eligible for child care assistance, and that there are potentially 40,000 or more not being served.6
- 3,700 fewer families receive child care assistance now than did in 2010, when there was a program-high enrollment of 24,700.7
Child Care Costs are High and Workers are Underpaid
- For single-parent families, 41 percent of monthly income goes to child care expenses for center-based infant care, which costs $9,135 per year, on average.8,9
- The average annual cost of child care is higher than a year’s tuition and fees at a public university.
At $550 per month ($6,600 per year), the average state reimbursement rate to providers is a fraction of the average cost of child care.
- The poverty rate for early educators in New Mexico is 27.4 percent, more than twice as high as for New Mexico workers in general (12.7 percent).10
- Put long-term and sustainable funding for ECCE in place
Rising to the challenge of making New Mexico a better place for kids and meeting the need for early childhood services in New Mexico will require bold and sustainable investments. Our state is at a critical juncture and a moment of great opportunity. New options for sustainable funding have been proposed, and New Mexico must take an “all of the above” approach if we are to truly improve prospects for the next generation:
- Create a new Early Childhood Trust Fund
- Use the Land Grant Permanent Fund to increase funding for early childhood programs
- Continue general fund commitments
- Expand eligibility for child care assistance
Too many working parents have to make the terrible choice when they reach the income eligibility ceiling: refuse a raise in pay or move their children from high-quality child care centers to low-quality or unsafe options. By extending eligibility to 250 percent of FPL, the state can make sure parents won’t have to make the choice between quality child care and career advancement.11
- Reduce and eliminate co-pays in the child care assistance program
Eliminating co-pays for families earning less than 100 percent FPL and reducing it for families between 100 and 200 percent FPL would allow these families to spend more of their income on rent, healthier food, and other living expenses, which improves the quality of life for their children.11
- Increase wages for the early childhood workforce
Studies indicate that a young child’s teacher—and the consistency that comes from having the same teacher—is one of the most important factors in determining the quality of a child’s early education. Poverty wages ($9.60/hour on average), however, have led to a 31 percent turnover rate in New Mexico’s child care workforce. Offering grants to providers who raise their wages would help reduce turnover and improve quality.
- Streamline enrollment in safety net programs and automatically enroll TANF families who need
Families who participate in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program are a first priority for child care assistance. However, less than 5 percent of TANF families in New Mexico receive help with child care. Automatic enrollment would reduce administrative burden on the state and ensure the program reaches those who need it most.
1 $283.3 million out of $7,779.4 million in recurring general fund spending
2 “Quantifying the Life-cycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program,” Garcia, Heckman, Leaf, Prados, 2019
3 Institute for Women’s Policy Research, December, 2019
4 Working Poor Families Project analysis of data from US Census, ACS, 2016
5 Population Reference Bureau, analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 2008-2017
6 US Dept. Health and human Services, October 2019
7 NM Legislative Finance Committee, January 2020
8 41 percent of $22,209 is $9,105 per year.
9 “The US and the High Price of Child Care: 2019,” Child Care Aware of America, 2019
10 “A values-based early care and education system would benefit children, parents, and teachers in New Mexico,” Economic Policy Institute, January 2020
11 See The Cliff Effect: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, New Mexico Voices for Children, 2018