by Suzanne Potter, Public News Service–NM
January 17, 2017

SANTE FE, N.M. – Children in New Mexico struggle against endemic poverty, but there are some positive signs, according to the Kids Count 2016 Databook being released today.

The report says 141,000 New Mexico children live in poverty. That is 29 percent of kids statewide, a figure that has gotten worse since 2008. It also shows that, in one-third of families, neither parent has secure, full-time year-round work.

James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, which issued the report, says there is some good news: the state has made major progress on insuring more kids. He credits the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

“That’s really important because when children get an opportunity to have their well-baby checks and so on, there’s a much greater likelihood that they can avoid diseases that will cause them delays as they develop,” he explained.

Jimenez notes, however, that the Medicaid expansion is under serious threat with the upcoming repeal of Obamacare. The research did show one other positive trend, the state has slightly reduced the number of low-birth-weight babies.

The report blames many of the state’s stubborn problems on the lackluster economy, which still hasn’t recovered from the recession despite multiple rounds of tax cuts designed to create more economic activity. Jimenez says the state’s whole approach should be overhauled to prioritize the needs of low-income families.

“We’ve got some other recommendations that would include better ways to fund our state government, so that we really provide the kinds of services that we think are necessary, including funding for child care,” he said.

The authors also recommend lawmakers change the income limits so more people qualify for child-care assistance, raise the minimum wage and protect food-assistance programs from further cuts.

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