Hundreds of undocumented immigrants and families with mixed residency status across New Mexico will receive $6,000 over 12 months in a pilot program studying the effects of cash assistance.
Proponents of the pilot project – developed by a coalition of advocacy organizations – hope the monthly cash injections of $500 will close income gaps for families left out of federal coronavirus pandemic relief programs, such as than unemployment assistance and stimulus checks. The initiative is largely funded by the National WK Kellogg Foundation and California-based nonprofit UpTogether.
“We really want to understand how this cash assistance is impacting families who have been excluded from these other programs that many of us have benefited from since the start of the pandemic,” said Antonio Granillo, from the association at Albuquerque-based nonprofit Partners in Community Action at a news conference Monday about the initiative.
The coalition launching the program, the New Mexico Economic Relief Working Group, formed in April 2020, includes Somos Un Pueblo Unido, an immigrant-led nonprofit, and child protection group New Mexico Voices For Children. The network helped distribute $24 million in cash assistance to low-income families and those made up of both undocumented residents and legal residents or US citizens.
“We knew from the start that immigrants were going to be excluded from cash assistance,” said Somos Un Pueblo Unido director Marcela Díaz.
Families eligible for mainstream programs to cushion the blow of unemployment and lost wages early in the coronavirus pandemic won up to $50,000 in cash, she said. “It was crucial income for these families to survive the pandemic, but also crucial for local economies in New Mexico. We have seen that there are gaps in other forms of safety net programs that could be filled with cash assistance.
The New Mexico Economic Relief Task Force released a study of 1,000 Hispanic families in the state last month, which found that the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately harmed the economic situation and status of families. employment of Hispanic women, rural residents and Spanish speakers. Twenty-eight percent of respondents earned $20,000 or less in 2020, and 60% had less than $1,000 saved for emergencies.
The coalition is asking state lawmakers to allocate $15.6 million this legislative session in cash assistance to families who have not received other pandemic assistance.
Families eligible for the new pilot program must have at least one dependent child or adult. Applicants must also have previously received financial assistance during the pandemic from the New Mexico Department of Social Services or a city or county program.
Of the 330 families who will be randomly selected to participate, 75 will each come from Bernalillo, Santa Fe and Doña Ana counties. The remaining 105 will be selected from Rio Arriba, McKinley, Curry, Roosevelt, San Juan, Chaves, Lea, Luna, Grant and Hidalgo counties.
More than 2,000 families have already applied for the program, which will begin making monthly payments of $500 in March, either by direct deposit or credit card.
Applications were due to close on Monday, but the deadline has been extended to Friday.
Organizers hope that if the pilot program yields positive results, more permanent public funding for the initiative could be used to expand it.
New Mexico Voices for Children will collect data on the study’s results, largely by interviewing participants, said executive director Amber Wallin.
Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber expressed support for the initiative at Monday’s press conference and said poverty is often a “default setting” for New Mexicans that could be changed with more support. cash assistance.
Webber recently joined a coalition of mayors across the country who are testing a similar project, and in June the city received a $500,000 grant from the group, Mayors for Guaranteed Income, to make monthly payments of up to $400 to a group of working parents. attending Santa Fe Community College.
Participants received their fourth payment in January.
Mayors for Guaranteed Income was started by former Stockton, Calif. Mayor Michael Tubbs, who distributed $500 a month for two years to 125 residents, beginning in 2019. Data on the project is expected to be released more later this year, but a short report on its effect in the first year showed that most participants spent most of the excess cash on food and utility bills – and less than 1% on tobacco and alcohol.
Participants’ full-time employment rose from 28% to 40% during the year, according to the report.
The study also detailed changes in mental health.
“We’re locked in a cycle of losing,” Webber said. “There’s no question in my mind that the way to interrupt this cycle, to break this cycle, is through a guaranteed basic income.”