“We saw so many of the indicators of child well-being were really improving; then the pandemic hit,” said James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, during a virtual news conference Wednesday. “Next year, we’ll see the damage the pandemic did in a statistical way. I know we see it in new reports every single day of how families are struggling.”
Jimenez said it’s also important for legislators to enact policies to get money “into the hands of families who will spend it quickly and locally. We believe that all the tax credits to business in the world will not make a difference if people do not have money to spend in those businesses,” he said.
Bill Jordan of the nonprofit New Mexico Voices for Children pointed to annual child wellbeing rankings in which New Mexico regularly finishes last or near last in the nation. “One of the things we know from the data is our kids are behind before they ever get to school,” he said. “We urge you to invest in our own kids over Wall Street.”
“Moving forward, we think New Mexico needs to continue investing in the programs that create opportunities for our families,” she said, adding that meeting basic needs such as food assistance, health care, child care and housing will be crucial.
“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.
"That investment is the only way to begin to equalize-- making sure that every child, in every family, in every place in the state of New Mexico has an equal opportunity to succeed, and the truth is we should not stop fighting," the governor said.
"Being currently the lowest response state and a state with large numbers of undercounted population - including children, children of color, tribal communities - it's really imperative that we get that accurate count," he said. "We have enough time to do that."
“It’s a reflection of the fact that despite what people say, that kids are our most precious asset, it’s not true in the way we invest our money in state and local government,” Jimenez said.
The good news is New Mexico is starting to see improvements in a number of areas as well as “big investments in programs that matter most to kids,” such as in education, early childhood education and child care programs, said Amber Wallin, deputy director of New Mexico Voices for Children.
James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, said the last-place ranking is disappointing, but the overall improvement in 10 of the 16 indicators is encouraging. "So that's a positive thing - not as much as we'd like, and maybe some other states are improving more than we are, but at the same time, at least 10 of those indicators moved in the right direction," Jimenez said.