Report: The pandemic’s impact on New Mexico families

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A new report highlights some positive improvements in New Mexico, but also some serious challenges for families that have only gotten worse during the pandemic.

The organization New Mexico Voices For Children has new numbers that show just how tough it has been.

"Poverty rates remain stubbornly high, food insecurity rates also got worse this year so we know that’s a challenge for so many families all across the state," said Amber Wallin, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children

Wallin and her staff released the "Kids Count Data Book." It dives into economic well-being, education, health, and community.

First, it outlines challenges that exist for families across the state.

"Too many families in our state are having a hard time affording basic household expenses, they sometimes can’t afford to keep enough food in the house for their children and they are worried about making their next rent or mortgage payment on time," said Wallin.

Wallin said the pandemic proved that low-income families and communities of color are the most vulnerable.

"It made glaringly obvious the work we still have before us to ensure the state creates the opportunity for all of our kids to meet their needs, to meet their full potential, and thrive."

But the report also outlines several positive points.

Wallin says childhood poverty rates slightly improved compared to years past. She credits state and federal assistance during the pandemic.

Data shows the number of kids with health insurance is also growing steadily. There’s also a bright spot in the education realm.

"Over time graduation rates are improving and we’re also seeing big improvements over time in the number of young children that have access to high quality, early childhood education and care opportunities," Wallin said.

She said some of the family-centered policy improvements from the state level are also paying off. She cited tax policies put into place in 2019 and 2020, and the creation of the state’s Early Childhood Care and Education Department.

"Even in those indicators where major challenges remain, the data have also shown that public policies have made a positive impact on child and family well-being. The data shows that there are reasons to be hopeful for the state," said Wallin.

Leaders of New Mexico Voices for Children believe another key to long-term success in the state is improving education outcomes. They’re hoping for a number of changes at the state level, including increases in funding for high-quality programs and care for students at every level.

As school districts keep their kids learning in the classroom, this organization wants to focus on increasing the quality there.

Right now, many school districts are facing massive challenges because of COVID cases, and some are continuing to make changes to the school day.