“We know that going into the pandemic, low-income children in our state and the children of color in our state were facing bigger challenges than many of their peers,” Wallin said. “What we see is that those challenges have been exacerbated, that COVID has really increased racial and ethnic disparities and disparities along income lines."
But according to New Mexico Voices for Children, 51 percent of adults in households with children in New Mexico have lost employment since March. “We were really surprised to see how high that number is, but we know it points to a weakness that already exists,” she said.
Instead, we should repeal the failed trickle-down tax breaks that were handed to the well-connected and big out-of-state corporations over the past two decades. Not only would this make us far less dependent on revenue from oil and gas, it would make our tax system more equitable for everyday working New Mexicans and more stable.
Nevertheless, New Mexico continues to improve in many of the indictors that measure child well-being, and Wallin credits the commitment of policy makers and “investments in programs to benefit kids and families.”
“The skeptics and the challengers are loud. But we have the facts and the families on our side,” Lujan Grisham said, calling for a renewed commitment to investing in “a system that continues its focus on children and families” during the 2021 legislative session.
During a talk Thursday night sponsored by Albuquerque-based New Mexico Voices for Children, Harris, a longtime New Mexico resident, said he wonders how far along the U.S. has come since 1968, when the group released its findings. He noted the civil, racial and political unrest in the nation this year in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed during a May 25 arrest in Minneapolis.
“What is the kind of state that we want to create for our children now and our grandchildren and great grandchildren?” he said. “What are the ways we need to invest in New Mexico’s people in order to make that desired future happen?”
The COVID-19 pandemic is squeezing New Mexico’s already tight state budget, as vital tax revenue drops during the recession. At the same time, oil and gas companies in New Mexico and across the West are filing for bankruptcy, leaving behind orphaned wells and leaving New Mexicans with the unpaid bill for cleaning them up.
“We haven’t figured out a way to establish a tax structure that allows the state and municipalities and counties to raise adequate revenue to meet the needs of their citizens,” said James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children.
Nearly half reported that members of their families had seen reduced hours or pay cuts, with one in three parents or primary caregivers saying they were struggling to meet rent or mortgage payments. 36 percent of respondents who had lost work were not eligible for unemployment benefits.