Pilot program offers payments to immigrant families in NM - Albuquerque Journal

Pilot program offers payments to immigrant families in NM

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Undocumented or mixed-status immigrant families, often excluded from traditional benefits and relief programs, will be eligible to participate in a guaranteed basic income pilot program in which they will receive $500 a month for 12 months, starting in March.

The program is being sponsored by the New Mexico Economic Relief Working Group, a coalition of community-based organizations, and funded by philanthropic groups and donors.

The working group will select 330 families from 13 counties, and at the end of the 12-month period evaluate how the unrestricted payments altered family finances, mental health, education and employment decisions, and other factors.

The guaranteed basic income program was detailed during a Monday online news conference.

Among the applicant eligibility requirements are being a member of an undocumented or mixed immigration status family, having at least one child under the age of 18 or being the legal guardian of an adult with a disability, said Marcela Díaz, executive director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, which is part of the working group.

“Low-wage immigrant workers, despite being essential to key industries in New Mexico’s economy, are often left behind in safety net and economic development policies,” Díaz said. “The outcomes of this pilot will help us drive home the need for more inclusive cash assistance to benefit the long-term health and economic prospects of entire communities.”

Applicants must live and prove residency in Bernalillo, Santa Fe, Rio Arriba, McKinley, Curry, Roosevelt, San Juan, Chaves, Lea, Doña Ana, Luna, Grant or Hidalgo counties.

The online application period opened last month and will close at 3 p.m. Feb. 11. To date, more than 2,000 applications have been received, said Jesus Gerena, of California-based UpTogether, which assembled most of the philanthropic donations.

In studying and tracking the well-being of kids and families, Amber Wallin, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, said she’s often seen socioeconomic disparities, but “these disparities really became glaring along the lines of income, race, gender and immigration status during the pandemic.”

Data shows that Hispanic parents “were more than twice as likely as white parents in the state to have lost wages, and that they were more than three times as likely to be unsure about whether or not they can make the next housing payment,” she said. Further, “immigrant workers despite disproportionately being on the front line of those industries that kept the state and the nation going during the pandemic, were left out of millions of dollars in economic relief programs.”

Families that receive direct economic assistance not only see better economic, health, employment and educational outcomes, Wallin said, but these families “are also more likely to spend these resources quickly and locally benefiting businesses and local economies too.”

If evidence of the guaranteed basic income pilot shows it makes a positive difference for families, Wallin said it is her hope that “we can scale this up, that we can continue to look for bigger solutions in our state that better support opportunity for our families and communities.”

Alan Webber, mayor of Santa Fe, said his city is conducting its own supplemental income project to get young heads of households with kids into community college programs for certifications. “This will give them a really strong step into the economy,” he said.

New Mexico has far too many people who are “struggling generationally” to provide opportunity for themselves and their children. “They get locked into a cycle of defeat, where low income status leads to lower educational attainment, which leads to lower job opportunities, and that leads to lower income,” he said.

“The way to break that cycle, once and for all, is through a guaranteed basic income,” Webber said, “which will change the lives of individuals and their families, and really propel New Mexico toward a very great future.”

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