"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."
“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.
“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.
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.
Fear of COVID-19 has prompted parents to cancel well-child visits nationwide, putting millions of children at risk for whooping cough, measles and other life-threatening illnesses. But non-COVID-19 medical needs haven’t gone away, and it is just as essential to prevent other vaccine-preventable diseases like polio and meningitis as it is to develop a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine.
“There’s at least $55 million that our families and communities, and the New Mexico economy is missing out on because of that provision that everyone in the household has to have a Social Security number,” Wallin said.
Each year in New Mexico, oil and gas companies waste hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of natural gas through venting, flaring and leaks, all of which worsens air pollution and costs the state more than $43 million in royalty and tax revenue. That is enough revenue to increase pre-K enrollment by 80% and offer more than 7,000 additional New Mexico kids access to quality early childhood education.
For the most part, I found New Mexico’s social workers to be kind, strong individuals. It also seemed evident that they are being asked to do one of the most difficult jobs in state government. Helping to decide the fate of children is no small matter, and even the best-intentioned decisions can go terribly wrong.
According to New Mexico Voices for Children "there are major challenges when it comes to having enough food to eat, but there are common-sense policy solutions that we can take to end food insecurity and improve children’s health, well-being, and opportunities to reach their full potential."