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New Mexico cash assistance program eased hardships for immigrant households

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Roz Brown

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(New Mexico News Connection) A new report from the nonprofit advocacy group New Mexico Voices showed a guaranteed cash assistance program designed for immigrants improved work and school outcomes and allowed participants to pursue better jobs.

Like other nationwide studies, the report concluded a "Guaranteed Basic Income" also helped boost employment rates and housing security among immigrants.

Nichelle Gilbert, executive director of the Partnership for Community Action, said the 18-month pilot program began in March 2020 to help immigrant families during the pandemic who were ineligible for federal stimulus relief money.

"Many families were unable to access federal stimulus rebates, unemployment benefits or paid sick leave due to their immigration status," Gilbert explained. "Harming the long-term health and economic outcomes for families."

The state's pilot program included 330 mixed-immigration status households in both rural and urban communities. They received $500 a month for 12 months with no strings attached. New Mexico Voices for Children found mixed-status immigrant families are less likely to have health insurance, stable employment, savings, consistent housing and food security.

The report found the number of participants who reported having trouble paying their rent or mortgage on time almost every month decreased by 35 percent after the 12-month pilot.

Marcela Diaz, executive director of the immigrant-based organization Somos Un Pueblo Unido, said although the state's Guaranteed Basic Income program was specifically created to help low-income immigrants, she expects other states to follow New Mexico's lead.

"There is a movement," Diaz observed. "We're starting to see a lot of state funding and city and county funding around the country start these GPI pilots."

Families taking part in the pilot said they also noticed a change in their children, with 9 percent of families saying their child was on track to complete their grade level and graduate; even higher among rural families.