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.
New Mexico stuck with $8 billion in cleanup for oil wells, highlighting dangers from fossil fuel dependence
The state has long suffered from the roller coaster cycles of extractive industry, according to James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, a health, education, and economic advocacy organization. “We’ve made policy choices in boom times that have really exacerbated our over-dependence on oil and natural gas revenues,” Jimenez told DeSmog.
Part of the social contract for companies operating in New Mexico is the straightforward notion that they should clean up after themselves. That’s especially true for industries like oil and natural gas whose messes contain deadly pollutants.
“If children are not ready to learn by the time they reach kindergarten, they’re already compromised. When they start from behind, too often they will end up behind,” said James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children.
“We have oil and gas, and so we have chosen to provide tax cuts in other areas,” said Bill Jordan, the government relations officer at New Mexico Voices for Children, an advocacy group. “Other states have figured out how to pay the bills … and they do it without oil and gas.”
“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.”
“I think it’s pretty far-sighted in terms of knowing where we are today, knowing the public policies that are being proposed and talked about publicly and knowing where we need to get because of climate change,” he said.
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.