Wallin noted that families of color were especially hard-hit by school closures and other economic impacts from the pandemic and now, should have more peace of mind. "They're able to better afford housing needs and ensure they can buy their kids back-to-school clothes," said Wallin. "But also it's helping them go back to work, afford necessities and helping our economy get back on track as well."
New Mexico ranked 49th in child well-being based on data gathered before the coronavirus pandemic. The year before, our state was 50th. New Mexico Voices for Children partners with the Annie E. Casey Foundation to release the annual Kids Count report that tracks 16 metrics of children's access to education, health and economic and social stability at home.
Incremental improvements show us both that progress is possible and also that creating the nurturing environments our kids deserve and need to thrive will require bold and sustained actions and investments.
“It’s encouraging to see that child wellbeing in New Mexico was improving before the pandemic hit,” said James Jimenez, executive director for New Mexico Voices for Children, which partners with the foundation. He’s cautiously optimistic that state policies “helped offset some of the health and financial problems caused by the pandemic.”
New Mexico traditionally has not done well in the Kids Count rankings, usually swapping the 49th and 50th spots with Mississippi. But Jimenez said there are some reasons for optimism as New Mexico looks to the future, including the expansion of Medicaid several years ago and a just-passed working families tax credit that could reduce child poverty.
“It’s encouraging to see that child well-being was improving before the pandemic hit,” said James Jimenez, executive director for New Mexico Voices for Children. “We’re cautiously optimistic that investments the state made in children and families beginning in 2019 – as well as throughout the pandemic – helped offset some of the health and financial problems caused by the pandemic."
Many great organizations, both state agencies and nonprofits, are hard at work addressing the major components of child development and care. Organizations such as New Mexico Kids, Farm to Table New Mexico, the Brindle Foundation and New Mexico Voices for Children address a wide range of issues, such as early childhood education, food security and safe neighborhoods.
“We know that the pandemic has been particularly hard on undocumented or mixed-status families,” Jimenez said. “… Just having a little bit of money to help pay the current bill, but maybe even get themselves out of debt a little bit, I think, is one of the most positive things that we are hoping will happen.”
James Jimenez, the executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, pointed to what he called a lost decade — from 2008 through 2018 — when the recession took its toll on the state. He said that resulted in little economic opportunity and state policymakers at the time took an austere approach to public spending.
“One of the nice things about doing something like the child tax credit is the notion that families know best on how to support their needs,” he said. “When you use a tax credit model, it puts the money and the decision power back in the hands of the families.”