Early Childhood Education and Care Department details fiscal plan and hopes for next four years

The New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department released its first four-year fiscal plan, detailing what the department needs in order to deliver high-quality early childhood education and services. The ECECD held a virtual press conference on Wednesday to detail the new plan. Some of the highlights include increasing childhood educator and staff wages and expanding access to PreK for more children. The department projected next fiscal year’s expenses to be $505,883,920 which is expected to serve 27,479 children. The department projects its budget request will increase to $943,289,473 and serve 47,091 children in three years and FY26 will be $943,289,473 and the department anticipates serving .

Report shows low voter confidence for national election results, but more confidence in state and county elections

A new report from the University of New Mexico’s Department of Political Science indicates that voter confidence is higher in state and county elections while voters are more polarized in national elections. This and other findings were discussed during a virtual press conference on 2020 voting information. New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver also said during the press conference that if the new voting rights bill is passed, the NMSOS office would expect to see an increase in civic engagement. Toulouse Oliver held the virtual press conference on Wednesday to discuss the results of the report, called 2020 New Mexico Election Administration, Voter Security, and Election Reform Report. During the discussion, she said that if SB 8, sponsored by state Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, passes, NMSOS would “see an increase in participation.” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham proposed expanding voting rights this year.

Advocates hopeful voting rights legislation will help break down barriers for the formerly incarcerated

Justin Allen, a community organizer, was eligible to vote in 2017 but he could not register until his third try, he said. And even at the third try, he required help from another organizer to convince the county clerk to allow him to register. Allen’s story is not unique, he and other community organizers told NM Political Report. Allen was released from prison in 2015. By 2017, he completed his parole and became eligible, per state law, to vote.

New regional Planned Parenthood head announces expanded medication abortion care

A Planned Parenthood clinic in Albuquerque added medication abortion care to its options this month, creating a sixth clinic in New Mexico to offer some level of abortion care in the state. Adrienne Mansanares, the new president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, told NM Political Report that in addition to the expanded care at the Northeast Heights clinic, she is hopeful that PPRM will also be able to formally announce a larger clinic in Albuquerque sometime later this year, as well. Mansanares said the expanded care at the Northeast Heights clinic will enable PPRM to help with both the needs of the local community, patients traveling from other areas of New Mexico that lack abortion care access and continue to serve people coming from other states, such as Texas. Mansanares, who was the chief experience officer for PPRM beginning in 2016, stepped into her new position to replace Vicki Cowart, who announced her retirement last fall. 

Cowart said through a news release that she couldn’t “think of a more passionate, dedicated and forward-thinking leader” than Mansanares. “The impact Adrienne has had on this organization cannot be overstated, and PPRM will be in strong, talented, and innovative hands under her leadership,” Cowart said.

2021 Kids Count Data Book indicates positives but also continued challenges

The advocacy group New Mexico Voices for Children released the 2021 Kids Count Data Book on Wednesday and said that, according to the data, New Mexico saw 20,000 additional children enrolled in Medicaid in 2021. Emily Wildau, the New Mexico Kids Count Data Book coordinator, said that data was one of the biggest surprises for her to come out of the annual assessment of how New Mexico is doing in terms of how children are doing. “That was one of the biggest things that really stuck out,” Wildau said. Every year NMVC releases the Kids Count Data Book that assesses how New Mexico children are faring. Wildau said that this year, because of some data collection challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the data is based on earlier surveys and resources.

Stansbury speaks in support of renewing the federal Child Tax Credit

U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury called renewing the federal Child Tax Credit an equity issue during a press conference on Thursday. The federal Child Tax Credit, which provided $3,000 per child between ages 6 and 17 and $3,600 per child under 6 the last six months of 2021, was a measure within the federal American Rescue Plan Act. The average Child Tax Credit payment per household was $444 in December according to a U.S. Senate Joint Economic Committee report. Democrats are now seeking to renew and extend the federal Child Tax Credit through the Build Back Better Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives in Nov. by a vote of 220–213, along party lines, but the bill has stalled in the U.S. Senate which is more evenly divided.

Poll shows Hispanic families hit hard by pandemic

A poll of 1,000 New Mexico Hispanic families indicates that Hispanic families have struggled financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic. BSP Research released a statewide survey Thursday done on behalf of several organizations detailing the economic hardships those polled said they faced. Some of the key findings include that the poll found that 28 percent of Hispanic families polled earn less than $20,000 in 2020 and 60 percent have $1,000 or less in savings. Marcela Diaz, executive director of Santa Fe-based Somos Un Pueblo Unido, said several nonprofit and grassroots organizations collected at the onset of the pandemic to form the Economic Relief Working Group to provide information between Latinos in the state, the immigrant and Spanish-speaking populations and policy makers and the government in Santa Fe. The Economic Relief Working Group commissioned BSP Research to conduct the poll and produce the survey based on it.

Medicaid coverage could be extended to 12 months for postpartum care

New Mexico could expand Medicaid coverage for postpartum care from two months to a full year starting this spring. The New Mexico Human Services Department is working to have the new rules in place by April 1, Nicole Comeaux, Human Services Department Medicaid director, told NM Political Report. The federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) made changes in how the state can ask for Medicaid dollars to encourage states to expand Medicaid for pregnant women. Comeaux said this change enabled HSD to start the process of expanding Medicaid coverage to all expecting individuals, including those who miscarry. She said it could impact up to 17,000 individuals in the state.

Legislators, coalition seek funding to address ‘crisis’ of sexual assault

The New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs announced its support for Affirmative Consent legislation and the need for $5 million in funding on Monday. State Rep. Liz Thomson, D-Albuquerque, is sponsoring HB 44, Affirmative Consent Policies in Schools. Alexandria Taylor, deputy director of New Mexico Sexual Assault Programs, said in a press conference the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that New Mexico ranks seventh in the nation for sexual assault and rape based on reported crimes. Taylor said one in four girls and one in six boys will experience sexual violence prior to their 18th birthday in New Mexico. She said two-thirds never report the crime but seek sexual assault services.

Amber Wallin replaces James Jimenez to lead New Mexico Voices for Children

Amber Wallin has replaced James Jimenez as Executive Director of New Mexico Voices for Children, a nonprofit children’s advocacy and research organization. NMVC announced the change this week. Jimenez retired at the first of the year but will continue to serve as executive director for New Mexico Pediatric Society, a role he acquired when the two organizations formed an alliance in 2017. He will also direct the NMVC Action Fund. Wallin, who began working for NMVC on tax policy issues about ten years ago, said that she intends to continue the work that is the core mission of the organization – advocating for policy that creates opportunities for children and families.