New Mexico’s leaders have taken many actions to protect and support children and families through this uncertainty, including hunger relief funding, emergency economic relief for those left out of federal stimulus payments, a new paid-sick-leave policy, and an increase and expansion of the Working Families Tax Credit, which will put money in the hands of families who will spend it quickly and locally to provide for their children’s basic needs. These actions prevented us from losing all the progress we’ve been working for to improve well-being for all of our children.
Students that do not graduate on time are more likely to drop out of school and less likely to attend college, according to the data book. Adults without a high school diploma are also more likely to have low-paying jobs, not have benefits and have higher unemployment rates.
While the number of households receiving SNAP benefits provides one view of the state’s need to address hunger, Emily Wildau, a research and policy analyst with Voices for Children, says it’s important to “look at poverty, unemployment, homeownership, and…a cost of food index,” to understand how hunger affects youths in the state. These factors, Wildau says, outline the parameters of those experiencing “food insecurity.”
Amber Wallin, deputy director, said that Chaves County’s outcomes are often tied closely to the fortunes of the oil and gas industry. “Those are things like poverty rates, child abuse rates that are linked to that,” said Wallin. “We know when parents have steady wages and good steady income that is a good predictor of how children are doing.” She added that the pandemic had a dramatically different effect on people depending on their social circumstances.
Amber Wallin, executive director of NMVC, said New Mexico legislators should continue to enact legislation that will positively impact families and children, particularly families of color. “During this Legislative session we’re continuing to focus on public policy to provide robust safety net support, especially in direct economic assistance for families who need it the most, especially for low-income front line workers, refugee and immigrant families unable to access key forms of relief,” she said.
“If lawmakers continue putting kids and families first, we expect to see even more improvements, Wallin said. “However, in order to ensure an equitable recovery from the pandemic and recession, these policies must consider the unique barriers faced by our children, families, and communities of color.”
It’s a well-known fact that New Mexico has one of the worst education systems in the country. The 2021 Kids Count report from New Mexico Voices for Children shows New Mexico recently ranked last among states for education. This shouldn’t be a surprise to students or their parents who feel our state’s education system is failing them.
“Equality of opportunity is not something that just happens,” said the organization’s deputy director, Amber Wallin. “Moving forward, we have to pass policy that supports families, prioritizes children and … improves opportunities for women and communities of color in our state.”
“The COVID recession is not a typical one. It’s the most unequal one in history,” Wallin said.
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.