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Pluses Outweigh Minuses in NM Kids Count Data Despite Pandemic


Thursday, February 4, 2021   

SANTA FE, N.M. -- A report on New Mexico's children and families showed steady improvement in child poverty since 2016, declining from nearly 31% to 25%, but the coronavirus pandemic has slowed improvements in child well-being.

Released at the start of the legislative session each year, the Kids Count Data Book provides policymakers with the status of children and families.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, joining New Mexico Voices for Children for the report's release, expressed confidence families can thrive, despite the health crisis.

"I want to make sure that we do everything we can to create individual and family security, particularly given the number of single heads of household and the current unemployment rate still in New Mexico," Lujan Grisham emphasized.

In 2020, state lawmakers passed an income tax cut for 70% of families with children and improved higher education affordability and access.

Lujan Grisham added this year, the state is on track to greatly expand education and care programs for youngest children through the Land Grant Permanent Fund.

The data book tracks indicators including economic security, education, health, and family and community.

James Jimenez, executive director for New Mexico Voices for Children (NMVC), said 11 of the 16 well-being indicators were moving in the right direction between 2019 and 2020.

"Children with health insurance, that continues to move in the right direction," Jimenez observed. "We're down to just 6% of children do not have access to health insurance, so 94% of our kids do. That's a great statistic."

Seventy-five percent of kids in New Mexico are children of color.

Emily Wildau, KIDS COUNT coordinator at NMVC, said policies must focus on racial equity if the state is going to improve health and well-being for the majority of the state's children.

"And as we move forward, we need to consider the ways in which the bias of seemingly colorblind policies are holding many children of color in our state back from reaching their full potential," Wildau urged.

The report also noted more young children ages three and four were enrolled in school, and there was an overall decrease in child poverty from 2019 to 2020.

Disclosure: New Mexico Voices for Children/KIDS COUNT contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Early Childhood Education, Human Rights/Racial Justice, and Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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