Amendment to tap the Land Grant Permanent Fund passes by wide margin

Constitutional Amendment 1, which will allow an increase from the Permanent Land Grant Fund distribution by 1.25 percent, won by a large margin. As of 9:45 p.m., the votes in favor were 349,579 to 146,969 opposed. Those in favor carried the vote by 70 percent. Angie Poss, spokesperson for Vote Yes for Kids! Constitutional Amendment 1, a group that has been working to convince voters to vote in favor of the amendment, said by phone that the celebration at Hotel Andaluz in downtown Albuquerque, after a decade-long fight, was joyous.

New U.S. Census data indicates improvements in child poverty and other child well being indicators

U.S. Census data released on Tuesday indicated national improvements in income, poverty and health insurance for families across the U.S.

New Mexico Voices for Children, a nonprofit that advocates for legislative policies that benefit children, believe the new census data showing some initial improvements could positively impact New Mexico’s child well-being that were not reflected in the 2022 National KIDS COUNT Data Book. The recent 2022 Data Book, which the Annie E. Casey Foundation released in August, ranked New Mexico at 50th for child well-being. Emily Wildau, research and policy analyst for NMVC, said that the census information released on Tuesday does not drill down into state-level data but more census data at the state level will be released later this week. 

But, she said, the new data includes supplemental income benefits, such as SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program], TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] and tax credits. “Adding in these income supplemental benefits gives a nuanced look,” she said. Wildau said the overall drop in poverty for children at the national level is, “truly astonishing.”

“The biggest thing we see is the overall rate of poverty for kids under 18 dropped from 9.2 percent [in 2020] to 7.8 percent [in 2021],” she said.

New Mexico’s ranking in child well being worsened according to KIDS COUNT Data Book

New Mexico ranks 50th in the nation for child well-being for 2022, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual KIDS COUNT Data Book. The KIDS COUNT Data Book of 2021 ranked New Mexico 49th in the nation for child wellbeing.  But despite the drop in ranking, Amber Wallin, executive director for New Mexico Voices for Children, said the state’s rankings from 2021 to 2022 are “not comparable.” Some of the data for the 2022 data book is from 2019 and some of it is from 2020, the year COVID-19 pandemic began. “What this data reflects is mostly pre-pandemic conditions,” Wallin told NM Political Report. “It’s reflective of the times before all the big policy changes in New Mexico. This data doesn’t capture all the changes we’ve seen in recent years.”

Wallin cited the state’s expansion of early childcare assistance to include families who earn up to 350 percent above the federal poverty level and child tax credits passed in 2021 as two ways in which the state has implemented change that will likely be reflected back in the data when the 2023 KIDS COUNT Data book is released.

Inflation Reduction Act does not extend federal Child Tax Credit

The Inflation Reduction Act, a bill that narrowly passed the U.S. Senate over the weekend, does not extend the federal Child Tax Credit. The federal Child Tax Credit, which became available to qualifying families through the American Rescue Plan Act, provided up to $3,000 per child per year for families with children under the age of 6. For families with children ages 6 to 16, the tax credit available was $3,600 per child per year. The funds could also be accessed monthly, instead of as a lump sum. Amber Wallin, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, said the policy lifted over 30,000 New Mexico children over the poverty line.

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.

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.

Conference provides fresh data on wellbeing of New Mexico children during the pandemic

New Mexico Voices for Children held its annual conference Thursday and put a special emphasis on the need to support women of color. The nonprofit, which advocates for children and family-friendly policy, provides the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids COUNT data book each year. The data book, which gives data from recent years to show things such how New Mexico ranks in child wellbeing comparative to other states, came out earlier this year. But during the conference, Amber Wallin, deputy director of NMVFC, provided some recent data on how the pandemic is affecting children in New Mexico. Wallin said that as of September of this year, 21 percent of New Mexico parents were unsure of how to pay the rent; 31 percent of New Mexico households with children are not eating enough; 38 percent of New Mexico households with children had difficulty paying for basic household expenses; and 40 percent of New Mexico parents with children under 5 faced childcare disruptions in the month of August because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Immigrants left out

Without relief aid from the federal and state government, immigrant families could suffer homelessness and hunger. Amber Wallin, NM Voices for Children’s deputy director, said that without any aid during the public health emergency and economic crisis, the crisis will worsen for immigrant families, leading to homelessness and hunger. That could also mean there will be children who live in immigrant or mixed-status homes who won’t be prepared to learn due to hunger in the coming school year. Some immigrant-owned businesses will be unable to restart, leading to more job losses, she said. “We had huge challenges already.

Groginsky becomes New Mexico’s first early ed secretary

The New Mexico Senate unanimously confirmed the leader of the state’s newly established Early Childhood Education and Care Department on Friday following an overwhelming show of support from educators, child advocacy agencies and fellow Cabinet leaders. “Elizabeth Groginsky has already earned the respect of the early childhood community in New Mexico — as underscored by the deeply positive testimony we heard in support of her confirmation today,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced in a statement after the Senate vote. Groginsky, 53, is a Colorado native and former Washington, D.C., education official who has spent her career in early childhood services and policy development. She is leading an agency that will consolidate a range of services for children from birth to age 5, as well as prenatal programs.

Lujan Grisham appointed Groginsky to the Cabinet position in November. Her confirmation comes as the governor and Legislature are working to close a gap in proposed spending on the Early Childhood Education and Care Department, which is set to take over services when the new fiscal year begins July 1.

Impact of proposed SNAP cuts would be huge in New Mexico

Proposed, sweeping and dramatic changes to a decades-old federal food aid program could have major negative impacts on many impoverished New Mexicans who rely on the program. Donald Trump’s administration proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps, in his most recent budget recommendation. The proposal included providing food boxes to those who qualify for the program while slashing the amount of money the federal government spends by 30 percent over ten years. All of this would likely result in fewer people receiving fewer benefits through the program. While the state splits the administrative costs of the program with the federal government, the federal government provides funding for the SNAP benefits New Mexicans receive.