by Suzanne Potter, Public News Service – NM
December 20, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Low-income families in New Mexico aren’t getting the job training or child-care assistance they need in order to become self-sufficient, according to a new report from the advocacy group New Mexico Voices for Children. The report, called “Turning Assistance Into Opportunity,” shows that a family of three only receives an average of $409 a month from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, also known as TANF, which is not enough to survive.
James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, said the federal program, which used to be called welfare, only is reaching a fraction of the families living below the federal poverty level.

“In fact, only about 22 percent of families living in poverty are helped by TANF,” he said. “Worse than that, only about 17 percent of children living in poverty are served by TANF, and that’s over 23,000 children. So the program probably doesn’t have the reach that it should have.”

The report said no TANF money is spent on education and training that help parents qualify for jobs that pay enough to support a family. The authors advocate a two-pronged approach targeting both generations, where the parents get relevant job training, and kids are placed in high-quality child care.

Jimenez also urges Congress to lift the five-year lifetime limit on TANF benefits.

“We’ve been in a recession now since 2008, really, and there’s been very, very little job growth in our state,” he added. “Because of that, the five-year time limit is particularly punitive in a state like ours.”

He’d also like the state Human Services Department to be more strategic, and prioritize job training and child-care assistance. A recent report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranked New Mexico 49th in overall child well-being and second worst in the country for child poverty, at 28.6 percent.

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