Action Alert: Stop the Trump administration from undermining healthcare rights law

The Trump administration is attempting to undermine enforcement of nondiscrimination protections under the Affordable Care Act. These efforts will especially harm trans people, the LGBTQ+ community, patients who speak languages other than English, and people who need access to abortion services.

The ACA’s landmark nondiscrimination provision, known as Section 1557 or the Health Care Rights Law, protects patients from discrimination based on of race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability. 

We encourage individuals and groups to submit comments with the Federal Register opposing the rollback of these important legal protections. Comments are due August 13.

The Trump administration is proposing rules that would reinterpret Section 1557 by:

  • exempting a broad number of healthcare programs and entities from having to comply with Section 1557’s nondiscrimination provisions;
  • eliminating nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ persons from regulations;
  • ending provisions that ensure people who speak languages other than English receive critical notices in the language they speak; 
  • removing protections against health plan designs that discriminate against people with serious or chronic health conditions. 

Discrimination has no place in healthcare. Rolling back section 1557 would allow discrimination and stereotyping to override patient care. This will endanger the health and lives of many New Mexicans and create needless confusion for providers and patients alike. 

To ensure your comment is accepted, please make sure your comment has at least one-third original text. You can submit your comment here:http://eqnm.org/save1557

*Your comment will submitted via Equality NM. EQNM, the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, and Southwest Women’s Law Center will have access to your comment and contact information.

Sample content for your public comment

  • Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability. This proposed rule attempts to change the administrative implementation of Section 1557 in a way that is contrary to the plain language of the law.
  • New Mexico has some of the highest rates of residents who identify as transgender in the country. In many parts of the state there are areas where only one hospital or health provider could result in less access to healthcare for transgender people. This would result in some traveling far distances to receive critical care, while others may simply not receive any medical care. It is important that nondiscrimination protections are in place for healthcare providers to ensure that patients can access the same care provided to all, no matter who they are. These protections are fundamental for LGBTQ+ patients to be able to access the care they need. 
  • In New Mexico, 29% of respondents experienced a problem last year with their insurance related to being transgender, such as being denied coverage for care related to gender transition or being denied coverage for routine care because they were transgender.
  • Sex discrimination in health care has a disproportionate impact on women of color, LGBTQ+ people and individuals living at the intersections of multiple identities—resulting in them paying more for healthcare, receiving improper diagnoses at higher rates, being provided less effective treatments and sometimes being denied care altogether. The inability to access needed healthcare services could further exacerbate health disparities.
  • Discrimination has no place in healthcare. The delivery of healthcare services in the United States should be premised upon the medical needs of the people, and should not be obstructed by the personal beliefs or ideologies of their healthcare providers.
  • Discrimination on the basis of national origin, which encompasses discrimination on the basis of language, creates unequal access to healthcare. Without meaningful access, millions of individuals will be excluded from programs and services they are legally entitled to, including hundreds of thousands here in New Mexico.

Workers win wage theft fight against former owners of Kellys Brew Pub

ALBUQUERQUE—The former owners of Kellys Brew Pub and Restaurant violated Albuquerque’s minimum wage ordinance, Judge Benjamin Chavez of the Second Judicial District Court ruled late Friday. The court also determined that because Kellys failed to follow the rules for paying the tipped minimum wage, the former owners owed their employees the full minimum wage for those hours worked. 

Under Albuquerque’s minimum wage ordinance, if employers fail to pay workers their full wage, they must pay triple the wages that were withheld as well as attorneys’ fees. The business and the business owners, executives, and officers can be liable. A trial to determine the exact amount of damages and attorneys’ fees the business and its owner owe the servers is currently set for October 2019.

“This victory puts all restaurants on notice that they must pay every worker, by law, for every hour they have worked,” said Bianca Garcia, a plaintiff in the case. “The law is on the side of fair pay. Dennis and Janice Bonfantine should be ashamed of themselves for going through such extremes—trying to overturn the minimum wage law altogether—just to avoid paying back the money they took from us.”

15 servers, represented by Youtz & Valdez, P.C. and the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, brought the class action lawsuit, Atyani v. Bonfantine, in April 2016 on behalf of about 150 former servers who worked at Kellys from 2013 to 2016. The lawsuit contends that after city voters overwhelmingly passed a ballot initiative in 2012 raising the Albuquerque minimum wage, the Bonfantines “settled on an unlawful response to the wage increase: servers would pay for it themselves, out of their tips.” 

Kellys required servers to pay their employers cash each shift, calculated at two percent of their total daily sales, plus three dollars per hour they worked on the clock. After making these required payments to their employer, servers sometimes owed more in cash than they had actually earned in cash tips during the shift. When this happened, servers were required to pay the difference from their wallets or their paychecks. 

To defend against these claims, the Bonfantines argued that the Albuquerque minimum wage was invalid because it was increased through a voter initiative that put a summary of the wage increase on the 2012 ballot rather than the entire ordinance. In May 2017, the Second District Court rejected this argument, ruling that any challenge to how the 2012 election was conducted must have been made right after the election.

“Albuquerque’s minimum wage law has teeth. Unscrupulous employers who don’t pay their workers the legal wage can be sued and end up paying much more in damages than if they had just paid their employees fairly,” said Stephanie Welch, supervising attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “Workers have the right to a fair and legal wage. This includes people who work for tips.” 

“The Kellys servers showed incredible persistence in fighting the Bonfantines, who literally took their hard-earned money out of their pockets,” said Shane Youtz, an attorney at Youtz & Valdez, P.C. “We encourage every employee who is a victim of wage theft to come forward. You deserve to collect every dollar you worked for and are owed.“

Attorneys on the case are Stephanie Welch and Sovereign Hager of the Center and Shane Youtz and James Montalbano of Youtz & Valdez, P.C.

The order on Atyani v. Bonfantine can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/case-law-summary-judgement-order-atyani-v-bonfantine-2019-07-12/

The transcript of the hearing in which the judge explains his ruling can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/transcript-atyani-v-bonfantine-hearing-ruling-only-2019-05-29/

The Atyani v. Bonfantine complaint can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/complaint-kellys-final-2016-04-28-filed

Child care assistance hearing postponed

We did it! Thanks to all your hard work, the Children, Youth and Families Department announced yesterday that it will not cut child care assistance eligibility to 160% of the Federal Poverty Level as it proposed. It will maintain the current eligibility of 200% FPL for child care assistance contracts.

The hearing scheduled for Monday, July 8 has been postponed until further notice.

While this is great news, CYFD still requires families to pay unaffordable copays. Too many parents are forced to drop out of the child care assistance program and find cheaper⁠ and often less safe⁠ alternatives or reduce their work hours or drop out of school.

CYFD will reschedule the hearing and will continue to take public comment on this issue. Let’s keep the momentum going!

We ALL depend on child care to work or pursue an education. Thank you for submitting comments, making phone calls, and for standing with New Mexico’s parents and children!

You can read about CYFD’s announcement here.

Lead Healthcare Attorney

The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty is hiring an attorney to lead and supervise our Healthcare Team’s advocacy to improve access to healthcare for children and families.

The Center is a nationally recognized non-profit law firm that engages in systemic advocacy and impact litigation to advance the health, economic and educational wellbeing of New Mexico’s families. We provide advocacy through the courts, the legislature and administrative agencies, and through community education and media. To learn more about the Center, please visit our website at www.nmpovertylaw.org.

We are looking for a dynamic and creative attorney to supervise and manage the Center’s Healthcare team and provide policy advocacy, legal representation, media work, community education and coalition-building. The Healthcare team is advancing innovative solutions to make healthcare affordable for all New Mexicans, improve Medicaid, and expand access to healthcare in low-income, immigrant and Native American communities, in collaboration with a broad network of community leaders and advocates. This is a full time permanent position.

Required: minimum five years as an attorney; strong commitment to improving the healthcare system; excellent research, writing, and legal advocacy skills; ‘no-stone-unturned’ thoroughness and persistence; strong leadership skills and ability to problem-solve creatively; ability to develop expertise in complex laws and regulations; Spanish fluency; commitment to economic and racial justice. Preferred: experience in policy advocacy, lobbying, legislative and government processes; experience with community lawyering and coalition building.

Apply in confidence by emailing a resume and cover letter to contact@nmpovertylaw.org. We are an equal opportunity employer. People of color, people with disabilities, and people who have grown up in low-income communities are especially encouraged to apply.

Public hearing on cuts to CYFD’s child care assistance on Monday, July 8

SANTA FE—There is a public hearing on proposed cuts to the Children, Youth and Families Department’s Child Care Assistance program on Monday, July 8 in Santa FeCYFD’s proposed regulation changes will prevent thousands of parents who are working or in school from getting much needed child care and continue to require families to pay an unaffordable share of costs. 

The regulation would hurt hard working New Mexico families by cutting child care assistance eligibility to 160% of the Federal Poverty Level from 200%. This means fewer working families will have access to child care assistance, even though the program is one of the best work support programs available to help families exit poverty and increase financial stability.

CYFD’s proposed regulations also fail to address affordability for the child care assistance program. Unfortunately, CYFD requires low-income working families to pay an unaffordable share of their income toward copayments. The federal government has urged states to ensure affordability for child care assistance by capping the family’s share of costs at no more than 7% of their income. Under CYFD’s current copayment requirements, families often pay 10% or more. This makes it difficult for families to pay for other necessary expenses like food and housing. 

The proposed regulation and public comments on the proposed cuts can be found here: https://www.newmexicokids.org/ 

WHAT:          
Public hearing on proposed CYFD regulation that would cut eligibility to the state’s Child Care Assistance program

WHEN: 
Monday, July 8, 2019 at 11:00 am          

WHERE:          
Apodaca Hall, 1120 Paseo De Peralta, Santa Fe, NM 87502.

WHO:             
CYFD
Families who would be impacted by the proposed cuts
Other members of the public  

New Mexico has a long way to go to improve education system, charge Yazzie plaintiffs 

SANTA FE—Students still lack the basics that are necessary for a constitutionally sufficient education, charged the Yazzie plaintiffs of the landmark education lawsuit, Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico in a legal notice of case status filed with the First Judicial District Court today. 

“We know that the Public Education Department and the governor want New Mexico’s diverse student population to have the educational opportunities they need to succeed,” said Lauren Winkler, an attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “Unfortunately, our legislature did not do nearly enough for our students this session. As a result, school districts have been unable to provide additional programming and supports for at-risk students like bilingual education and social services. In fact, many districts have been forced to cut basic programs like reading intervention and drop-out/truancy prevention, and they cannot meet the demand for pre-K programs.” 

Plaintiffs in the case are working with the governor and the PED on a plan to bring the state into compliance with the First Judicial District Court’s most recent February 2019 court order, which found that the state violated students’ constitutional rights to a sufficient education and ordered the state to provide educational programs, services, and funding to schools to prepare students so they are college and career ready.

The court ordered the state to take immediate action for at-risk students that face the deepest inequities and barriers to education, including low-income students, Native American and Latino students, English language learners, and students with disabilities. Judge Sarah Singleton’s initial ruling was in July 2018.

Since the court’s July 2018 decision, the Yazzie plaintiffs have worked with a broad group of educators, tribal members, community groups, and school districts to craft a platform of action necessary to transform New Mexico’s educational system to address the needs of at-risk children in compliance with the court orders. Most of the programs and funding in the platform, supported by plaintiffs, were blocked by legislative leaders and died in committees.

The New Mexico State Legislature increased education funding this past session, but school districts had to spend the bulk of the increase on a much needed raise for educators. Once districts allocated funds for the modest six percent raise, they did not have enough funding for basic educational necessities that would bring the state into compliance with the court’s ruling.

“We still have a substandard education system for our children. Our schools not only lack the basics, they lack the essential culturally relevant resources and materials, that our children need,” said Wilhelmina Yazzie, the lead plaintiff in the case who has children in the Gallup McKinley County Schools. “This is not acceptable. All our children deserve an equal opportunity to succeed. My hope is that the state will act upon the court’s ruling and make our children a priority. We cannot waste another year. Our children are the future of New Mexico, and they are sacred.” 

The notice of case status states that the Legislature’s increased funding is not sufficient to:

  • Cover basic instructional materials and technology for classrooms;
  • Ensure teaching is tailored to the unique cultural and linguistic needs of our students, including English-language learners and indigenous communities;
  • Adequately expand access to pre-K, summer school, after school programs, reading specialists, and smaller class sizes;
  • Ensure social services, counseling, health care and literacy specialists are available to all students who need them;
  • Invest in our educators to attract and retain new teachers and expand their qualifications, especially for special education, science, and bilingual education;
  • Adequately increase the transportation budget to ensure all students have the opportunity to participate in after-school and summer programs.

“Raises for teachers and support personnel were essential to recruiting and retaining employees. Rio Rancho is still seeing its teachers exit the profession and leave for better salaries. The most important support we provide students is a highly qualified teacher, but we struggle to find staff in every field. New Mexico must offer salaries that are competitive with neighboring states,” said Sue Cleveland, superintendent of the Rio Rancho Public School District. “But after satisfying the salary mandate, insufficient funds remained for programs such as pre-K and for addressing the needs for social workers, dual-language programs, and literacy specialists. We continue to run a deficit of $800,000 for transportation, diverting funds away from the classroom. Positive gains have been made, but there is still work to be done.”

While the Legislature significantly increased funding for extended learning through the K-5 Plus and the Extended Learning programs, the vast majority of at-risk students do not have access to these programs.

By the time the laws were passed, districts had little time to consult with teachers and parents to determine whether the districts could apply for the programs. Many districts did not apply for funding because they determined that the money available would not cover the actual cost of the programs; the program requirements were too strict and inflexible; and they did not have time to determine whether they could implement the programs.

The Legislature also increased funding for pre-K for four-year-olds, but thousands of families who applied for the program still do not have access.

The Yazzie plaintiff’s Notice to the Court of Case Status in Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/notice-yazziemartinez-v-nm-yazzie-plaintiffs-2019-06-28/

The final ruling in Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/D-101-CV-2014-00793-Final-Judgment-and-Order-NCJ-1.pdf

Law guaranteeing basic wage protections for home care and domestic workers goes into effect today

SANTA FE—A law goes into effect today that ensures home care and domestic workers—the people who clean homes and deliver care for others—are protected by New Mexico’s minimum wage standards and other wage protections.

Under the Domestic Service in Minimum Wage Act, domestic and home care workers are now covered by New Mexico’s wage laws, and the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions can investigate their complaints, enforce their rights, and recover their wages and damages.

“Talking with domestic workers, we have found that this is a growing industry and many of these workers in the past didn’t have anywhere to go to when they have been the victims of wage theft,” said Hilaria Martinez, a community organizer for El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos.

“Our domestic worker committee has found that cases like these keep increasing, especially to women in this field and other minorities in our community,” Martinez added. “Therefore, after years of hard work and community organizing, I am glad to see this law go into effect to deter workplace exploitation for domestic workers and for them to finally be valued like any other worker in our state.”

Domestic workers have been left out of many labor protections throughout history, and typically had very few options when they were not paid.

The Domestic Service in Minimum Wage Act, sponsored by Sen. Liz Stefanics and Rep. Christine Trujillo, ended the exemptions for domestic workers from New Mexico’s wage laws—as has already been done at the federal level.

New Mexico law generally requires employers to pay employees minimum wage and overtime, keep records, and pay employees in full and on time. However, like other wage laws enacted in the 1930s, it excluded large categories of work typically performed by women and people of color from the minimum wage and other protections.

Federal law eliminated its exclusion of domestic workers years ago, but lacking state protections, New Mexicans who work in people’s homes were not protected and were subject to low or no pay and exploitative situations.

“The Domestic Service in Minimum Wage Act was a culmination of years of work, including listening sessions with caregivers. The New Mexico Legislature recognized that it’s high time to ensure all workers, including people who work hard in other people’s homes, are guaranteed fundamental labor protections just like everyone else,” said Adrienne R. Smith of New Mexico Caregivers Coalition. “Domestic workers’ historical exclusion from the federal labor laws is an ugly vestige of slavery. The federal government righted that wrong years ago. We are overjoyed that today New Mexico has finally done so as well.”

In the 2017 New Mexico legislative session, the New Mexico Caregivers Coalition successfully spearheaded Senate Joint Memorial 6 that created a statewide taskforce to recommend short-term and long-term actions to promote a stable and growing workforce to meet the needs of seniors and individuals with disabilities who rely on these services in order to live independently in their communities.

“There is nothing more important than taking care of New Mexico’s children, elderly, and family members with disabilities,” said Alicia Saenz a member of El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos. “It is invisible work and historically, our work has not been given the value it deserves. I am proud to provide these services to my community. The implementation of this law today is a step in the right direction to give domestic workers the respect and dignity they deserve.”

“This law was the result of people doing some of the toughest jobs—like caring for others’ loved ones—coming from around the state, sharing their stories, and speaking up for fairness,” said Stephanie Welch, supervising attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “Domestic and home care workers are now entitled to the state minimum wage and can file a claim with DWS when they are not properly paid.”  

###


The New Mexico Caregivers Coalition advocates for direct care workers’ education, training, benefits, wages and professional development so they may better serve people who are elderly and those with disabilities.

El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos is a grassroots, Latino immigrant-led organization based in Central New Mexico that works with Latino immigrant communities and allies to defend, strengthen, and advance the rights of our community.

The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty is dedicated to advancing economic and social justice through education, advocacy, and litigation. We work with low-income New Mexicans to improve living conditions, increase opportunities, and protect the rights of people living in poverty.

Stop Trump’s attack on immigrant families!

The Trump administration is proposing a new rule that would force immigrant families to decide between living together and separating to avoid eviction from housing. 

In May, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed a new rule that would prevent “mixed status” families from living in public housing together or receiving Section 8 housing vouchers. Mixed status families consist of family members who are both eligible and ineligible to receive public housing assistance based on their immigration status.

Under current rules, ineligible family members can live in the same household with their family, but the amount of HUD assistance is based upon the number of eligible family members. None of the public housing assistance pays for an ineligible family member’s share of rent.

The Trump administration’s proposed rule is a blanket attack on all immigrant families who need housing assistance. A person can have lawful immigration status, but still not be eligible for housing assistance. Examples of immigrants with legal status who do not qualify for public housing assistance include immigrants with student or work visas as well as survivors of serious crimes who are granted U-visas.

Please tell the Trump administration to abandon this harsh and unfair rule!

HUD’s own analysis states that over 55,000 children who are U.S. citizens or green card holders could be evicted from their family homes under the proposed policy. 

It would also force tens of thousands of housing providers to collect documents from residents “proving” their citizenship. This requirement will impact over nine million U.S. citizens and 120,000 elderly immigrants. Many of these tenants, especially the elderly and those who have disabilities, face serious obstacles accessing required documentation.

Tell the Trump administration to keep families together in New Mexico and the nation by submitting your public comment by July 9, 2019!

Below is some content to include in your comment. To maximize its impact, make sure your comment has at least one third original text. You can submit your comment here: https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=HUD-2019-0044

Sample content for your public comment:

  • Families will face the decision of either breaking up in order to receive housing assistance or forgoing assistance and facing homelessness in order to stay to together.
  • Mixed status families will be evicted within 18 months of the implementation of the new rule or sooner.
  • HUD’s statistics show that the proposed rule will evict as many as 25,000 immigrant families including 55,000 children who are eligible for housing assistance.
  • Over 9 million United States citizens and 120,000 elderly immigrants must provide further documentation of eligibility in order to continue receiving housing assistance. Many of these individuals will face serious obstacles accessing the required documentation.
  • The proposed rule will actually cost more to provide housing assistance to fewer people. Millions of families struggle to find affordable housing; however, blaming immigrants will not solve this problem. Since existing law requires that subsides are prorated to only assist eligible immigrants or citizens in a household, the new rule will merely shift housing assistance benefits to other eligible individuals. HUDs own analysis admits that the policy will cost approximately $200 million dollars and will result in reduced quality and quantity of assisted housing.
  • The policy will result in significant administrative costs and burdens. It will require housing providers to verify documentation that was not previously required from millions of residents. Additionally, it will force housing authorities to develop new policies to determine which families can continue to receive housing assistance.

ACTION ALERT: Tell CYFD not to cut child care assistance!

All families need access to affordable child care so they can make a living and pursue future career opportunities. But in a move that will prevent parents who are working or in school from getting much needed child care, the Children, Youth and Families Department proposed this week to cut eligibility to New Mexico’s Child Care Assistance Program and to continue to require families to pay an unaffordable share of costs. Without access to affordable child care, families will be forced to either go without child care or forego education or employment opportunities.

The regulation will hurt hard working New Mexico families by:

  • Cutting eligibility to 160% FPL from 200%. This means less families will have access to child care assistance, even though they are low income.  
  • Requiring low-income families to pay an unaffordable share of costs. Federal guidance found that child care costs over 7% are not affordable for working families. CYFD’s proposal requires families to pay more than 10% of their income towards child care and higher, depending on the size of a family.

Please tell CYFD to make child care accessible and affordable for New Mexican families!

Speak out at the public hearing:
Monday, July 8, 2019 at 11:00 a.m.
Apodaca Hall, 1120 Paseo De Peralta, Santa Fe, NM 87502.

Submit written public comment no later than July 8, 2019 at 11:00 a.m.

  • By email to: CYFD-ECS-PublicComment@state.nm.us with the subject line “8.15.2 NMAC Public Comment” or
  • By mail to: Kimberly Brown, Child Care Services Bureau, CYFD, P.O. Drawer 5160, Santa Fe, NM 87502-5160.  

Sample content for public comment on cuts to child care assistance. 

Slashing eligibility for child care assistance harms New Mexico’s families!
Families need reliable and safe child care so that they can make a living and pursue future career opportunities. Without child care assistance, families are often unable to afford appropriate child care and are faced with the difficult choice of either resorting to lower quality care or foregoing education or work opportunities. CYFD raised eligibility to 200% of the federal poverty level in November of 2018 and enrollment has not increased. CYFD should seek supplemental funding from the legislature before cutting the eligibility level.

CYFD’s copayments are unaffordable!
According to CYFD data, just a third of eligible families participate in the program. Federal law requires CYFD to make co-payments affordable for families. Federal guidance recommends that co-payments be no higher than 7% of a family’s income. CYFD has not set a cap on copayments, and parents often pay much more than 10% of their income on child care, including families living in deep poverty. CYFD data from FY2017, shows a 66% drop in participation in the program once families are charged a copay, beginning with incomes as low as 25% to 50% of the FPL. Parents who cannot afford the copayment often have to reduce their work hours or seek alternative and often unreliable care. Families should not have to choose between paying for childcare or other basic necessities like food and clothing. New Mexico’s kids deserve better!

Proposed cuts to child care assistance will force parents to give up employment and educational opportunities

Eligible families sued department last year over arbitrary denials of assistance

SANTA FE—In a move that will prevent families from getting much needed child care, the State of New Mexico proposes to cut eligibility to child care assistance available to parents who are working or in school. A regulation released yesterday, would reduce families’ eligibility to incomes of 160% and lower of the federal poverty level. Currently, families with incomes up to 200% of the FPL qualify for assistance. The regulation also provides some information used to determine family copays, which continue to be unaffordable according to federal standards.

The proposed rule will reduce the number of families eligible for child care assistance and continue to burden parents with unaffordable copays that force them to go without child care and forego education or employment opportunities. Children, Youth and Families Department data from FY2017, shows a 66% drop in participation in the program once families are charged a copay, beginning with incomes as low as 25% to 50% of the FPL. According to CYFD data, just a third of eligible families participate in the program.

“We urge CYFD to change this proposed regulation so that more, not fewer, families have access to the child care they desperately need. We know that CYFD wants to increase opportunities for New Mexico’s families. One clear way to do that is to help hard-working parents keep their jobs and stay in school by providing help with the exorbitant costs of child care. Unfortunately, too few families qualify, and those who do must come up with copays that are so high that many are forced to leave the program and give up on careers and their education or resort to unreliable and unlicensed care,” said Maria Griego, supervising attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty.

Griego added, “We are concerned that the state is cutting benefits when enrollment has decreased. We need safeguards that ensure child care copayments are actually affordable so families can benefit from the program. This means adequate funding at the legislature that is based on the economic reality facing New Mexico families. The state should seek supplemental funding to prevent cuts right now.”

CYFD agreed to issue regulations that detail eligibility requirements for the Child Care Assistance Program following a lawsuit filed by Organizers in the Land of Enchantment (OLÉ) and families represented by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. The lawsuit, Torres v. Jacobson, argued that the department illegally reduced eligibility and determined the amount of child care assistance without going through the public regulatory process required by law.

After the lawsuit was filed, CYFD immediately increased eligibility to 200% of the federal poverty level, which it now proposes to cut.

“When CYFD extended the eligibility requirements, it opened the doors for more parents out there struggling to find childcare and now they are looking to close that door again,” said Brian Gelepsie, OLÉ member. “The state is messing with families’ livelihoods when families have to decide between paying for childcare or having a roof over their heads. Our parents and children deserve better.”

The proposed Child Care Assistance Program regulation:

  • Cuts eligibility to 160% FPL—even though enrollment in the program is dropping.
  • Sets child care copayments at unaffordable levels and fails to explain the details of how copayments are calculated. For example, the department applies a 10% increase to base copayments for every case, but this is not in regulation.
  • Does not clearly articulate how CYFD calculates income to determine eligibility or how the application process works.
  • Does not require applications and eligibility documents to be in languages other than English.

A public hearing on the rule is scheduled to take place in Santa Fe on July 8, 2019.