Action Alert: Support expanding access to Child Care Assistance!

One of the best ways to help hard-working parents keep their jobs and stay in school is by providing help with the exorbitant costs of child care. The Early Childhood Education and Care Department (ECECD) has proposed rules that would make New Mexico’s Child Care Assistance Program accessible to more families.

You can help make these changes by submitting comments to ECECD supporting the changes.

The proposed rules would end ineffective and burdensome requirements that force single parents to assign child support enforcement rights to the state to qualify for child care assistance. The process is so burdensome and fruitless that most parents choose to simply forgo much needed childcare along with employment and work opportunities. Complying with child support enforcement rights can also be dangerous when the absent parent was abusive or antagonizes the custodial parent.

The regulations also make child care more accessible and affordable by:

  • Making it easier to qualify by not counting certain income;
  • Eliminating the requirement of applying in-person at a child care office;
  • Granting three months of benefits to families who are searching for work (Currently, families have to be employed or in school to qualify);
  • Extending eligibility to families pursuing education in graduate school.

Tell the ECECD that you support these positive changes to the Child Care Assistance program.

1) Speak out at the public hearing. Give public comment on Wednesday, January 6, 2021 at 1:00 p.m. The hearing will take place via internet and telephone due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. To access the hearing by telephone call: 1-346-248-7799 and enter access code 9743902 4249. To access the hearing via the internet go to https://zoom.us/j/97439024249 and enter meeting code 974 3902 4249#.

2) Submit written public comments. Submit written public comments no later than January 6, 2021 at 1:00 p.m. by email to ECECD-ECS-PublicComment@state.nm.us with the subject line “8.15.2 NMAC Public Comment.” You can also submit comments by first class mail to P.O. Drawer 5169, Santa Fe, NM 87502-5169, or hand delivered to the Old PERA building at 1120 Paseo de Peralta on January 6, 2021 from 1:00p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

3) What you might include in your written or oral comments:

a) Say you support the proposed regulations.

  • I support the proposed rules, because they will expand access to child care assistance and increase affordability of the program.

b) Explain why child care assistance is important to you or your community.

  • Working families need access to affordable childcare they can trust to ensure their children have a safe space to learn while the parents are working to further their education or participate in the workforce.
  • Every working parent should be able to access quality child care without worrying about sacrificing basic needs like food and rent.
  • We know that the earliest years in children’s lives are the most important in their development and lay the foundation for all that is to come. That is why it’s so important that all working families be able to access affordable childcare that they can trust.

c) Explain how the proposed regulations will impact you or your community.

  • Child support requirements are burdensome to administer, have few benefits for families and put domestic violence survivors in danger. Other states have eliminated these requirements.
  • Child care is unaffordable for low income families, because the program has high copays. The federal government recommends that families pay no more than 7% of their income on child care so that is affordable. New Mexico should eliminate co-pays for families below 100% of the federal poverty level and make them affordable for other families.
  • It will be easier to find a job if childcare is available when families are looking for work.
  • Eliminating the requirement to submit applications in-person will lower burdens on applicants and increases child care accessibility.

You can find the full text of the proposed rules here: http://164.64.110.134/nmac/nmregister/xxxi/ECECDnotice_xxxi22.html

Yazzie plaintiffs ask court to order state to provide students computers and internet access

SANTA FE—Yazzie plaintiffs in the landmark Yazzie/Martinez education lawsuit asked the First Judicial District Court today to order the State of New Mexico to provide computers and high-speed internet access to the thousands of “at-risk” students who lack these necessary tools for remote learning. 

“Many children in New Mexico, especially those in rural districts and districts serving predominantly Native American students, don’t have computers or high-speed internet access and have been effectively denied access to public education since the pandemic started, worsening existing education inequities,” said Melissa Candelaria, a senior attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, which represents the Yazzie plaintiffs.

In 2018, in the Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico lawsuit, the court ordered the state to provide a sufficient education to all public school students.

The state was required to immediately direct resources to remedy the failures in its education system, because the court recognized students—especially Native students, English language learners, students from low-income families, and students with disabilities—would be irreparably harmed if the state did not act swiftly. 

The court noted that access to technology, including computers and related infrastructure, is essential to a sufficient education.  

An estimated 23 percent of the New Mexico population lacks broadband internet service. An estimated 80 percent of Native Americans living on tribal lands in New Mexico do not have internet services at all. 

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, lack of access has been catastrophic for far too many New Mexican families because of the state’s failure to address the technology gaps,”  said Alisa Diehl, a senior attorney with the Center. “The state has to be accountable to New Mexico’s students and families and make access to their education a priority.”

Diehl continued, “Had the state complied with the 2018 court order, many more students would be able to access remote learning right now. Unfortunately, the state has spent its time and resources trying to dismiss the lawsuit. Nine months into the pandemic, too many students have received little to no education at all. This is utterly unacceptable. The state needs to take action immediately to make sure New Mexico’s students get the education they need and deserve.”

The motion can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Yazzie-Tech-Motion-With-Exhibits-1-6-Final.2020-12-15.pdf

The final ruling in the lawsuit can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/D-101-CV-2014-00793-Final-Judgment-and-Order-NCJ-1.pdf

Attorneys for the Yazzie plaintiffs include Melissa Candelaria, Alisa Diehl of the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, Preston Sanchez of ACLU-NM, and Dan Yohalem.