While not all child well-being indicators are going down, NM children are 50% more likely to live in poverty than children in other states AND not only are we ranked 50th in child poverty, while the nation is improving in this area, NM is worsening significantly. Read on.
Before we dive into the KIDS COUNT Report, I want to remind our readers that working with well over 20 progressive advocacy groups, including NM Voices for Children, Retake and our partners Espańola Indivisible and NM Resistance (UNITED), have produces a list of 29 2019 high priority bills and incorporated them into an online survey. It represents your opportunity to raise your voice and tell the Governor, the legislature and 2018 candidates for statewide office: THIS IS WHAT WE WANT. We will use survey results to vet 2018 candidates, to develop voter guides for 2018, to focus lobbying in 2019 when we can FINALLY go on the offensive and then to hold our elected officials accountable.
The survey asks you to tell us how much you support each bill listed and to identify your top five priority bills. Thus far, the Affordable Care Act, Increasing the minimum wage, and increasing investment in renewable energy are the top three priorities. But we have only one day’s worth of responses. So, click here to take the survey and when done, take a moment to send the survey to a handful of friends, post it on your Facebook page and if you are part of a group, please circulate this to others. In just a couple days we have had over 100 people complete the survey from 26 different House Districts. So we are getting responses from all regions of the state–and we haven’t even begun our outreach to organizations, unions, grassroots groups, political parties and legislators to get the word out about the survey.
Now read on, to better understand why the future of our children depends upon our effectively Retaking Our Democracy and advancing policies that will lift our children out of poverty and despair.
New Mexico: Worst in Nation in Child Poverty & Getting Worse
Every year, NM Voices for Children publishes an in-depth of the conditions under which our children live and in the impact of those conditions upon their futures. The report provides detailed analysis and tremendous charts that describe the current status and trends in relation to child health, education, poverty, overall well-being, graduation rates, infant mortality, food scarcity and a host of other indicators. It would have been impossible to do justice to the report to try to cover all aspects of their findings, so today we focus on child poverty.
NM’s child poverty rate is the worst in the nation and is only getting worse as today, 50% more NM children live in poverty than in the rest of the Nation. What’s more, while only 14% of NM’s white children live in poverty, 35% of Hispanic children and 43% of Native American children live in poverty. And as NM Voices’ chart reveals, the gap between NM and the Nation is widening. Retake is focusing on child poverty today because that measure tends to correlate with a host of other measures.
In fact virtually the only childhood indicators that show a positive trend relate to health and that is largely resulting from the Affordable Care Act and increased access to health insurance, child healthcare and prenatal care.According to NM Voices’ Kids Count Report: “We rank 49th in the nation in overall child well-being according to the KIDS COUNT index. In only one other state are conditions worse for kids. Just as alarming is the fact that we rank poorly in each of the four KIDS COUNT domain areas. We’re 48th in economic well-being; this past year we fell to 50th in education; we’ve made many gains in the health area, and so we are now ranked 37th in this domain; and we are 49th in the family and community domain.”
Remarkably, despite the bleak data presented above, KIDS COUNT reports that: “Thanks to the Affordable Care Act in New Mexico, more than 30,000 more kids now have access to health insurance. Thanks to ongoing efforts of advocates and to commitment on the part of legislators, this year 4,100 more New Mexico kids will benefit from NM Pre-K than did five years ago, and 3,700 more families will have state-funded home visiting services. We’re also seeing significant long-term improvements in teen birth rates, teen drug and alcohol abuse rates, and the percent of teens not in school and not working. In fact, most of New Mexico’s child well-being indicators are improving.” But while these trends are heartening, recall that in most all of these areas where improvement is occurring they come in a context of ranking at the bottom or very near the bottom in national rankings.
Nelson Mandela said that “there can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” The “it” in that sentence is really our Governor, our Legislature, and by extension, us, the voters who have elected these representatives.
And so what can we do? 2018 represents an opportunity for NM voters to raise their voices and use their votes to shift the Roundhouse and elect a Governor who can do more than veto good ideas that prevent crime and poverty and advance bills that inordinately reward the wealthy and corporations while punishing the people. There are a plethora of policies that could be implemented that address childhood poverty and many are associated with bills we have in our priority list….hint–raise your voice and take the survey.
NM Voices’ KIDS COUNT ticks off just a few of the policies we could implement if we all work together:
To Decrease Child Poverty:
- Support two-generational approaches so that there is better coordination of health, education, housing, and food services for both parents and children.
- Restore eligibility levels for child care assistance to pre- recession levels (200 percent of the federal poverty level).
- Raise the state’s minimum wage and index it to rise with in ation; and raise the tipped wage to 60 percent of the minimum wage.
- Increase refundable tax credits like the Working Families
Tax Credit (WFTC) and the Low Income Comprehensive Tax Rebate (LICTR), and enact a more progressive income tax system so low-income families do not bear a disproportionate responsibility for funding our state.
- Protect SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) from eligibility changes that would decrease the number of children receiving food bene ts.
- At 175 percent APR, interest rates on predatory loan products (payday, car title loans, etc.) are better than they once were, but more needs to be done to protect poor and low-income families from getting trapped in an endless cycle of increasing debt.
- Ensure that all workers can earn at least one week of paid sick leave.
- Enact and enforce policies to end wage theft.
- Support and promote the availability of resources
and assistance for grandparents helping to raise their grandchildren, including access to nancial resources, legal services, food and housing assistance, medical care, and transportation.
- Fund navigators to ensure that kinship foster care families have access to the public bene ts for which they are eligible.
Click here to review the excellent Kids Count Report published by NM Voices for Children.
I’ve encouraged you to take the survey on legislative priorities for 2019, but to understand how that survey fits into our overall 2018-2019 Strategy, a two-prong approach that includes both a 2018 election strategy and a 2019 legislative strategy, click here.
Paul & Roxanne