Monday, February 7, 2022

Marcela Díaz, Somos Un Pueblo Unido, (505) 670-9301
Felipe Vásquez, EL CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos, (505) 639-8636
Sharon Kayne, NM Voices for Children,  (505) 361-1288
Rae Oglesby, UpTogether, (912) 571-7051

First-of-Its-Kind Pilot Focuses on Undocumented Immigrant Workers and their Families

Santa Fe, New Mexico—On Monday, the New Mexico Economic Relief Working Group (ERWG)—a coalition of immigrant-based and advocacy organizations—in conjunction with UpTogether, launched New Mexico’s first statewide Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI) pilot program.

As part of the NM Immigrant GBI Project, 330 undocumented or mixed-immigration status families from 13 counties will begin in March to receive $500 monthly for 12 months.  The online application period opened last month and will close this Friday, February 11 at 3 p.m. MST. To date, more than 2,000 applications have been received. Participants will be randomly selected from all eligible applicants to ensure strong representation from rural and urban communities. Eligibility requirements are here and the online application, available in English and Spanish, is here.

GBI programs are primarily designed to provide families earning low incomes a basic level of financial security through recurring cash payments—no strings attached. The New Mexico program will explore how cash assistance impacts immigrant families who are regularly excluded from traditional economic relief, safety net programs, and worker benefit programs. NM Voices for Children will lead the evaluation of the project by surveying participants on how unrestricted cash alters family finances, health and educational outcomes, as well as decisions about work.

ERWG partner UpTogether, a national nonprofit with an online community and cash transfer platform, will deliver the payments through direct deposit or prepaid cash cards.

“UpTogether is excited and humbled to be a part of this historic pilot to invest in immigrant families across New Mexico,” said Jesús Gerena, UpTogether’s CEO. “After 20 years of trusting, investing in, and learning from families, we know when you give people money and the choice to use the dollars how they see fit, not only does it impact their individual households, but also the community at large. That’s why we are supporting this initiative and calling for the needed policy and systems changes to invest in more communities, in New Mexico and beyond.”

The ERWG and UpTogether have been ardent advocates of cash transfers to strengthen New Mexico’s emergency response to the pandemic, especially for the 30,000 immigrant families excluded from stimulus rebate checks, unemployment benefits, and other safety net programs. Across the country, there is a growing body of evidence showing cash transfers have proven to be the most effective means of helping families lift themselves out of poverty or keep afloat during the COVID-19 health and economic crisis.

While the New Mexico pilot was designed by community-based and advocacy groups with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and UpTogether, GBI policies are being increasingly pursued by local and state governments across the country. On Monday, Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber and Las Cruces City Councilor Johana Bencomo—both public proponents of government-sponsored GBI programs—spoke to the growing national trend for cash transfer programs as a means of addressing growing wealth and income inequality.

Webber and Bencomo are instrumental in leading city-sponsored GBI projects in Santa Fe and Las Cruces.

“We’ve long known cash assistance is one of the best ways to both help working families who are struggling and to boost the economy, as the money is spent quickly and locally. Guaranteed Basic Income programs that have been tried elsewhere have shown how well this approach works. These programs create stability for families, which allows them to plan for the future and pursue better employment opportunities. We look forward to having the data from this project so we can learn how this valuable tool can help move New Mexico families and communities toward a brighter future,” said Amber Wallin, Executive Director of New Mexico Voices for Children

“Low-wage immigrant workers, despite being essential to key industries in New Mexico’s economy, are often left behind in safety net and economic development policies,” said Marcela Díaz, Executive Director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido. “The outcomes of this pilot will help us drive home the need for more inclusive cash assistance to benefit the health and long-term economic prospects of entire communities.”

“Our economic relief programs and our GBI pilot study set the foundation for future policy making with long-term impacts through systemic changes aimed at more inclusive, just and equitable economic and tax reform,” said Marian Méndez Cera, Worker Justice Organizer with El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos. “Cash is one of the most direct and effective ways to provide financial stability to our communities, and it is time to change historically racist and xenophobic exclusions of low-wage immigrant workers and mixed status families who contribute to the economy as essential workers, small business owners, and tax-payers.”

The ERWG is made up of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, EL CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos, NM Voices for Children, NM CAFé, and Partnership for Community Action. Together, with UpTogether, these groups have advocated for and helped design local and state cash transfer programs for New Mexicans financially devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, reaching 25,000 immigrant and very-low income families with about $25 million in relief.