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Report: NM Child Well-Being Fared Better Than Expected During Pandemic


Thursday, January 19, 2023   

New Mexico's Voices for Children has released its latest Kids Count Data Book - noting some quality-of-life improvements despite COVID, but also emphasizing areas that need more attention.

The data on child well-being comes as the New Mexico Legislature begins its 2023 session - with new laws and policies expected.

The group's Research & Policy Analyst and Kids Count Coordinator Emily Wildau said considering the challenges faced the past three years, it's heartening that the data reflect no significant declines - and even some slight improvements.

"We have 7% fewer young children not enrolled in school, compared to 2% fewer nationally," said Wildau. "New Mexico has 45% fewer children without health insurance - compared to 38% nationally, and we've seen a 58% decrease in our teen birth rate - compared to 56% nationally."

The annual child well-being report tracks indicators across four domains including economic security, education, health, and family and community.

Voices for Children encouraged lawmakers to improve child-care access and early educator wages, diversify revenue streams to decrease the state's reliance on oil and gas revenue, and support a minimum-wage increase and paid family medical leave.

Pandemic relief funds from the federal government boosted child well-being in most states. And Voices for Children Executive Director Amber Wallin said additional public policies enacted to help support working families in New Mexico should lead to lasting improvements.

She said even more could be accomplished to help struggling families if state lawmakers increased and expanded the state's child tax credit for low-income families.

"We know that credits like the Child Tax Credit are some of the best and most evidence-based policies for reducing childhood poverty and improving outcomes," said Wallin. "So when we talk about improving child well-being, this one really should be paramount."

One concern raised is an expected reduction in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. Benefits were increased during COVID, but will be reduced if Congress ends the federal health emergency this year, as expected.

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

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