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.”
A New Mexico Voices for Children report from August says “New Mexicans who speak languages other than English, particularly immigrants and refugees, are excluded because of systemic inequities in language access. The inadequacy of our state’s multilingual interpretation and translation services causes significant hardship in many New Mexico communities because language access is critical for both good health and financial security.”
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.
In this legislative session, New Mexico Voices for Children will be asking lawmakers to put families with children first in policymaking. High on the list of policies that will help ensure a just recovery and equitable opportunities for all families are enacting a state-level CTC, with families facing the biggest economic challenges seeing the biggest benefits.
“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.”
The bilingual survey of 1,000 Hispanic adults, including nearly 250 immigrants, was conducted last month by polling firm BSP Research and commissioned by New Mexico Economic Relief Working Group, a coalition of organizations that includes children advocacy nonprofit New Mexico Voices for Children and the immigrant rights group Somos Un Pueblo Unido. The effort was a follow-up to a smaller survey conducted in 2020.
“This is very sobering data,” Sanchez said. The findings, he said, show “tough times for everybody across New Mexico, particularly rural Hispanic residents.” The survey was sponsored by a host of groups advocating for worker or immigrant rights, including Somos Un Pueblo Unido, El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos and New Mexico Voices for Children.
Wallin said the state’s recent investments in early childcare education are positive signs and she is hopeful that similar policies will continue in the future. She also said she believes New Mexico needs to continue to help families afford early childcare education. At the same time, she said that while early childcare is “really expensive for families,” early childcare workers are not “paid nearly enough for the work they’re doing” and some early childcare centers are “barely getting by.”
The programs that Wallin and Voices advocate for “depend on us passing good tax policy, and diversifying and raising revenue from a lot of different sources.” She noted that there is currently significant federal investment in the state, along with record setting revenue generated by the oil and gas industry. “But really, we need to diversify our economy and our revenues moving forward so that we always have the funding needed to support the programs that matter most for kids 20, 30 years into the future, when oil and gas is maybe not able to contribute the revenues that they do now,” she said.