New Mexico’s poverty rate is getting even worse for children under five years old, according to new numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Now some child advocates and state legislators are renewing their calls to use money from the state’s permanent fund to pay for childhood programs.
With more than 36 percent of children under five living in poverty, New Mexico now has the country’s highest child poverty rate.
Allen Sanchez, President of CHI St. Joseph’s Children, a Catholic childhood advocacy group in Albuquerque, says the new numbers are severe, and that the state should finally invest more in services for young children to address the rise poverty.
"This is an emergency," Sanchez said. "[Early childhood programs are] a long-term strategy for changing the cycle of poverty, but there is actual immediate relief when we fund early childhood programs."
Some Democratic state lawmakers hope to raise an additional $130 million a year for kids in poverty by trying to amend the state constitution to divert 1 percent of the state’s land grant permanent fund towards early childhood programs.
Past efforts to tap into the permanent fund have failed amid stiff opposition in the legislature.