Gov. signs bill ensuring New Mexicans who speak languages other than English can access state services

SANTA FE—Today, after over a decade of work by families and community leaders seeking fair access to state agencies for New Mexicans who don’t speak English, the governor signed a bill mandating state agencies create and implement plans for translation and interpretation services. 

House Bill 22: Limited English Access To State Programs goes into effect July 2023.

“This law will ensure more New Mexicans their rights to public resources, alleviate small grassroots organizations of the burden of being a catch-all to fill gaps in accessible services, and give informed decision making power and agency back to New Mexicans,” said Sachi Watase of the New Mexico Asian Family Center. “Our communities have asked for equitable language access. Today, we are thrilled that our state is taking this step to honor the commitment and decades of work from my predecessors and ancestors, community-based organizations and advocates, our bill sponsors, legislators and public officials, essential workers who have witnessed the harm language barriers have caused first-hand, and of course, the generations of individuals, families, communities and allies across New Mexico who have worked tirelessly to lay the groundwork to help us get here today.”

Sponsored by Representatives Kay Bounkeua, Patricia Roybal Caballero and Senators Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez and Mimi Stewart, HB 22 requires all state agencies with secretaries to collect data on language use by families the agency serves and to develop and implement plans for ensuring meaningful access to state services through translation and interpretation. 

“Our state’s cultures and languages are some of our greatest strengths,” said Verenice Peregrino Pompa, an attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “We thank the governor for demonstrating her commitment to racial justice by signing this bill into law. We also thank the bill’s sponsors and the NM Asian Family Center for leading this effort for fair access to state services for all New Mexicans regardless of the language they speak.”

The bill’s signing follows a February 25, 2022 federal court ruling reaffirming the New Mexico Human Services Department’s obligation to identify languages spoken by families trying to access food and medical assistance and to translate documents based on the demographics of those served by local agency offices. The court also ordered HSD to include information on the availability of language assistance services on Medicaid notices and to immediately fix its automated phone system to offer interpretation in multiple languages. 

The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions entered into a settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor in 2020, requiring the agency to translate the application and other documents used in the unemployment system. 

New Mexicans who speak languages other than English have reported barriers accessing food and medical assistance, which has been especially difficult during the pandemic. Some lost food assistance multiple times because notices about renewing benefits are only in English. Others reported having to pay private interpreters, despite having no income and having to deal with unnecessary in-person contact during the public health emergency. 

Community-based organizations that work directly with New Mexicans that speak languages other than English or Spanish, like the New Mexico Asian Family Center and the Refugee Well-being Project, currently have to divert limited resources in order to provide translation and interpretation services that are the state’s responsibility under federal and state law. 

Many New Mexicans speak languages other than English–including Vietnamese, Chinese, Dari, Arabic, Swahili, Kinyarwanda, and Diné. Many of these languages meet population thresholds that require translation of food and medical assistance applications and documents under federal law. However, the state typically only provides written documents in English and at times in Spanish, and oral interpreters can be difficult to reach without additional help. 

The court order can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/language-access-order-hatten-gonzales-v-scrase-2022-03-01/

Information on HB 22 can be found here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1j6ZmNw7JHYZ3KoXzTwq-nU26SIQRUxeZ/view 

Bill capping small loan interest rates signed by the governor

SANTA FE—After years of hard work by advocates and community members fighting for fair credit for all New Mexicans, a bill requiring a 36% APR cap on storefront loans passed was signed by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham today.

“For years so many advocates and community members have fought for a fair and affordable interest rate cap. New Mexican families who’ve experienced crushing financial hardships because of predatory loans have come forward to tell their stories and the stories of their communities over and over, year after year. Today all that hard work has paid off.” said Lindsay Cutler, an attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “We are incredibly grateful to the leadership of the sponsors of HB 132, and to the governor for signing this important legislation for New Mexico families.” 

The law goes into effect January 1, 2023.

65% of lenders in New Mexico are located within 15 miles of Tribal lands. In McKinley County alone, there are more than 40 storefront lenders that made 69,618 loans in 2020 – nearly one loan for every resident. The Navajo Nation President and Council have expressed their strong support for a 36% cap.

New Mexico currently has one of the highest interest rate caps on installment loans in the country. Lenders across the state are taking advantage of triple-digit interest rates and draining hundreds of millions of dollars from hardworking New Mexicans each year. A family who borrows a storefront loan for just a few hundred dollars at the current rate cap of 175% APR will end up paying hundreds, even thousands of dollars in interest and fees.

Action Alert: Key legislation awaits the governor’s signature. You can help!

Your dedication and countless phone calls, emails, and comments in hearings worked! Huge efforts to stop predatory lending by capping interest rates on small loans, parity for Native language teachers, access to state services in languages other than English, and easy enrollment in healthcare could be a reality for New Mexico’s families. 

We need your help to get these bills signed and over the finish line! Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has until March 9 to sign legislation.

Please contact the governor this week by calling her office at (505) 476-2200 and leave a message with her office to “Please sign HB 22, HB 60, HB 95, and HB 132.” You can also email her using this form: https://www.governor.state.nm.us/contact-the-governor/.

Bills awaiting signature: 

HB 22: Limited English Access to State Programs requires state agencies to develop plans to provide help in languages other than English, ensuring that more New Mexicans can access state services. 

HB 60: Native American Language Certificate Salaries ensures that Native language teachers are treated fairly, on par with other teachers, promoting language preservation and student educational success.

HB 95 Easy Enrollment Act allows uninsured residents  to use their state income tax returns as an easy way to get information on available health coverage plans and to enroll in any plans they are eligible for. 

HB 132: Interest Rates for Certain Loans requires an all-inclusive 36% APR cap on storefront loans and ensures that New Mexico’s laws prevent abusive and predatory financial practices. 

Thank you for your tireless efforts! Let’s get the bills passed made into law.

Bill ensuring New Mexicans who speak languages other than English can access state services passes Legislature

SANTA FE—HB 22, a bill mandating state agencies create and implement plans for translation and interpretation services, awaits the governor’s signature. The bill passed the Senate unanimously today.

Sponsored by Representatives Kay Bounkeua, Patricia Roybal Caballero and Senators Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez and Mimi Stewart, House Bill 22: Limited English Access To State Programs requires all state agencies with secretaries to collect data on language use by families the agency serves and to develop and implement plans for ensuring meaningful access to state services through translation and interpretation.

“All New Mexicans deserve equal access to state services, regardless of the language they speak,” said Sachi Watase of the New Mexico Asian Family Center. “HB 22 will help to rectify state agencies’ current lack of adequate translation and interpretation.”

New Mexican families and community leaders have been seeking access to translation and interpretation at state agencies for over a decade. New Mexicans who speak languages other than English have reported barriers accessing food and medical assistance, which has been especially difficult during the pandemic. Some lost food assistance multiple times because notices about renewing benefits are only in English. Others reported having to pay private interpreters, despite having no income and having to deal with unnecessary in-person contact during the public health emergency. 

Community-based organizations that work directly with New Mexicans that speak languages other than English or Spanish, like the New Mexico Asian Family Center and the Refugee Well-being Project, currently have to divert limited resources in order to provide translation and interpretation services that are the state’s responsibility under federal and state law. 

“A plan is the critical first step so agencies can determine how to best provide the necessary translation and interpretation services that are required so New Mexicans can access state services,” said Verenice Peregrino Pompa, an attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “The bill will increase coordination among agencies by having the plans reported to the Legislative Finance Committee and the governor.”

Many New Mexicans speak languages other than English–including Vietnamese, Chinese, Dari, Arabic, Swahili, Kinyarwanda, and Diné. Many of these languages meet population thresholds that require translation of food and medical assistance applications and documents under federal law. However, the state typically only provides written documents in English and at times in Spanish and oral interpreters can be difficult to reach without additional help. 

On January 21, 2022 a federal court ordered the New Mexico Human Services Department to collect data on the languages spoken by New Mexicans served by the state’s food and medical assistance program and affirmed the agency’s legal obligation to translate documents based on the demographics of those served by local agency offices. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are represented by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty.

The court order can be found here: https://cookieless-offload.s3.us-west-2.amazonaws.com/nmpovertylaw/Order-Language+Access-DHG-2022-01-21-compressed.pdf

Information on  HB 22 can be found here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1j6ZmNw7JHYZ3KoXzTwq-nU26SIQRUxeZ/view

Action Alert: Help ensure all New Mexicans can access state services in languages other than English!

HB 22: Limited English Access to State Programs is scheduled to be heard TOMORROW at 1:30 p.m. in the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee. We need your help to get it passed! 

Please join the virtual committee hearing tomorrow and provide public comment in support of the bill. 

All New Mexicans deserve equal access to state services, regardless of the language they speak. New Mexico is home to thousands of people that primarily speak Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese and Diné and other languages. Despite being required by law, many agencies do not provide information and services in languages New Mexicans understand. Lack of language services has delayed or prevented New Mexicans from applying for unemployment insurance, food assistance, and Medicaid prior to and during the pandemic and deepens economic and health disparities in our communities. 

HB 22 requires state agencies to develop plans to provide help in languages other than English, ensuring that more New Mexicans can access state services. 

You can share a personal story about why state agencies should provide interpretation or translation. You can also say something like this: “I urge senators to support HB 22. All New Mexicans should have access to state services. Coordinating and planning language services is a common sense step to address health and economic inequities in our state services.”

HB 22 Summary

Language Access Analysis, Plan, and Annual Report will increase language access by requiring state agencies to: 

  • Collect data on the number of New Mexicans agencies that primarily speak a language other than English and determine the resources needed to ensure meaningful access to services through translation and interpretation.
  • Develop and implement an annual plan to provide meaningful access to state programs for individuals who primarily speak languages other than English. 
  • Submit the annual report to the governor and the Legislative Finance Committee.

Public comment instructions

When: 1:30 p.m. on Friday, February 11, 2022

How: Click on this Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87967039414  
or join by phone: 1 (669) 900-9128
Webinar ID for SHPAC: 879 6703 9414

What to Expect During the Hearing 

The committee will be taking public comment. The chair of the committee will announce the bill and ask who supports HB 22. At that time, to provide a comment use the Zoom reaction button and raise your hand. The chair will call your name and unmute your Zoom when it is your turn to speak.

Tips 

  • Keep your remarks brief and to the point.
  • If you have a personal story about how state agencies’ lack of interpretation or translation services has impacted you or your family, please share it.
  • Close the Legislature’s webcast page when you give your comment so there is not an echo during your remarks.
  • Make sure you are not muted when you start speaking.
  • Do not rely on your computer or phone for notes. Write them down or print them in case your computer screen freezes.
  • Close other tabs and windows in your browser to make sure your connection is good.
  • If your connection or microphone doesn’t work, be prepared to call in with the information above. 

Bold legislation for the health and well-being of New Mexican families await the governor’s signature. You can help!

Together we had groundbreaking and unprecedented victories this legislative session. Your dedication and countless phone calls, emails, and comments in committee hearings worked! Monumental efforts like paid sick leave, access to affordable healthcare, students’ access to culturally appropriate services, and more could be a reality for New Mexico’s families. 

We need your help to get these bills signed and over the finish line! Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has until April 8 to sign legislation and has started the process already.

Please contact the governor this week and ask her to sign HB 20, SB 71, HB 112, SB 317 and HB 287. Call her office at (505) 476-2200 and leave a short message, or email her using this form: https://www.governor.state.nm.us/contact-the-governor/.

  • HB 20 Healthy Workplaces Act will ensure that employees accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Only about half of all workers in New Mexico currently have paid sick leave.
  • SB 71 Patients’ Debt Collection Protection Act prohibits collections against low-income patients for hospital and certain medical facility bills and will help families get connected with healthcare coverage that can pay for their care.
  • HB 112 Non-Discrimination in State and Local Healthcare Programs will make it illegal to discriminate against immigrants in any healthcare program funded solely with state or local dollars.
  • SB 317 Healthcare Affordability Fund and No Behavioral Health Cost Sharing will raise more than $120 million to drive down healthcare costs and get coverage for tens of thousands more people, laying a foundation toward healthcare for all.
  • HB 287 Access to Culturally Appropriate Services will require the state to assess gaps in health and social services in the public schools and create a task force to recommend policy changes to ensure adequate, culturally responsive services. 

This session, we also got very close to passing major legislation for a 36% rate cap on predatory lending, housing protections, access to healthy foods, and built momentum for language access in government services, repealing minimum wage exclusions, SNAP improvements, and more. We will continue pushing for these important changes into the future.

Now, let’s get the bills passed made into law.


URGENT ACTION ALERT: Ask the governor to create rent relief fund to prevent homelessness!

To prevent a dramatic rise in homelessness as New Mexico navigates the COVID-19 crisis and its economic aftermath, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham must prioritize housing relief, including legislation creating a rent relief fund and protections for renters in the upcoming special session this week. Legislative leaders have worked diligently on a crucial housing protection and rent relief package for New Mexico, but the Legislature cannot hear it unless the governor puts the legislation on her agenda.  

New Mexico received hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds to support New Mexicans impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. These funds should be used to prevent a housing crisis in New Mexico.

Call the governor at (505) 476-2200 before Wednesday, June 17 and ask her to create a rent relief fund and put housing protections on the agenda for the special session! You will only be able to leave a short, simple message on the phone with one or two points, but you can also email the Governor at this link with more extensive comments.

Information to consider including in your message to the governor about this important issue:

  • All New Mexicans deserve access to safe and stable housing, and especially during a pandemic. 
  • Right now, thousands of families in our state can’t pay rent because of the pandemic-related economic downturn. 
  • New Mexico was already struggling with a housing crisis before the COVID-19 pandemic, and our communities cannot afford for this problem to get any worse. 
  • As current eviction protections and unemployment begin to end this summer, we need the state, through the Governor and the Legislature, to act to mitigate the financial devastation for families and prevent a dramatic rise in homelessness. 
  • If the state does not act in the special session, many New Mexican families will become homeless in the coming months. 
  • A sharp increase in homelessness will be devastating not only for families across our state, but entire communities, and our state and local economies for years to come. 
  • Please utilize federal CARES Act dollars to create a statewide rent relief fund. 
  • Please support meaningful legislation in the Special Session to repeal the antiquated statewide rent control ban and give the Governor the power to institute a statewide emergency eviction moratorium.  

Governor signs bill closing loopholes in small loans law

SANTA FE—Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill today cleaning up state law that regulates storefront lenders. House Bill 150, Installment & Small Loan Changes, sponsored by Representative Georgene Louis, protects New Mexico borrowers by ensuring accountability and transparency in the storefront lending industry.

“Today we’ve made great progress toward fairness and transparency for New Mexican borrowers,” said Lindsay Cutler, attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “HB 150 cleans up loopholes in state law by requiring lenders to report relevant data to the state and aligns our small loan laws so all New Mexico families can receive fairer loans.”

New Mexico’s first across-the-board interest rate cap went into effect in January 2018, capping interest rates on storefront loans at 175 percent APR. However, high fees and loan rollovers continue to drain income from New Mexico borrowers. The two laws that regulate storefront lenders, the Small Loan and Bank Installment Loan Acts, still contain inconsistent fee and disclosure provisions, do not require sufficient reporting to the state’s Financial Institutions Division to enforce consumer protections, and do not make clear borrowers’ rights on loan renewals.

Starting January 1, 2020, HB 150 will:

  • Require lenders to provide relevant data on small loans, enabling the FID to verify storefront lenders are adhering to small loans law and for the state to evaluate how the law is impacting New Mexicans;
  • Allow borrowers 24 hours to rescind a high-interest loan;
  • Align fee provisions and disclosure requirements in the Small Loan and Bank Installment Loan Acts so consumer protections are consistent for all borrowers;
  • Protect New Mexican borrowers from potential loopholes when they renew or rollover loans by clarifying the definition of new loans; and
  • Align the penalties for violating the small loan laws and the language around the Unfair Practices Act to ensure that companies are held accountable for unfair, deceptive and unconscionable practices.

“The small loan industry makes hundreds of millions of dollars from hardworking New Mexico families,” said Cutler. “HB 150 goes a long way to make sure our small loan law is clear of ambiguities and provides meaningful consumer protections that hold small loan companies accountable. Small loan reform is absolutely necessary if we hope to stop predatory lending practices.”

New Mexico workers celebrate statewide minimum wage increase

SANTA FE–On Monday, dozens of New Mexico workers and their families gathered to celebrate as Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law a proposal that would increase the state minimum wage for the first time in over ten years.

Senate Bill 437, approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate, progressively increases the minimum wage from $7.50 to $12 per hour by 2023. Starting January 2020, the state minimum wage would be raised to $9, $10.50 in 2021, $11.50 in 2022 before settling at $12 per hour in 2023.

The newly signed law also contains the following provisions:

  • Gradually increases the “tipped credit” for tipped employees from the current $2.13 per hour to $3 per hour by 2023
  • Allows for a new sub-minimum wage for students at $8.50 per hour
  • Does not include an annual cost of living adjustment

Raising the minimum wage to $12.00/hr by 2023 would directly affect 150,901 workers or nearly 20 percent of the total workforce in the state. Directly affected workers would receive an annual increase of approximately $1,114.

A statewide minimum wage coalition mobilized hundreds of workers from across New Mexico during the session in support of a wage increase.

Below are reactions from low-wage workers and community organizations across New Mexico in celebration of the statewide minimum wage increase:

“Last month the legislature did it’s part to increase family economic security in New Mexico and today the governor fulfilled her gubernatorial campaign promise to raise the state’s minimum wage to get workers–who are the backbone of our state– one step closer to a livable wage,” said Margarita Castruita Flores a member of El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos. “With a salary of $12 an hour I could earn approximately $112 more per week, something that could help me pay for one of my utility bills, which I have trouble paying with my current wage. We are proud of the contributions low-wage workers like me provide to our state and we will continue our fight to ensure ALL workers in New Mexico have the opportunity to thrive.”

“Today is a victory for hard working New Mexicans who deserve a raise. We thank the Governor for signing this bill into law,” said J.D. Mathews, Political Director for New Mexico Working Families. “This is an important step towards economic security and ending poverty in our state. Our commitment to all workers receiving a living wage continues”.

“After ten years of wage stagnation, I am so happy to see our state finally moving in the right direction. This raise will give twelve thousand dollars to workers who seriously need and deserve it,” said Lauren Shimamoto, Albuquerque service worker and member of OLÉ. “Thank you Governor Lujan-Grisham for signing this bill, it’s a great first step towards a living wage and a thriving New Mexico.”

“When workers are compensated fairy, everyone wins,” said Marcela Diaz, Executive Director for Somos Un Pueblo Unido. “$12 per hour will go along way to helping working families, rural communities and local economies prosper. By signing this bill, Governor Lujan Grisham recognizes just how essential workers are to our state’s future.”

“Today New Mexican workers achieved a great victory. For a decade, they’ve seen their spending power decrease, as the minimum wage stayed the same and the cost of living went up,” said Stephanie Welch, supervising attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “They deserve wages that allow them to provide for themselves and their families. They won this raise by coming together from all across the state to demand fair wages and respect for their hard work. 

*** Video and photos from the bill signing and worker-led celebration can be found here, here, here & here.

New Mexico workers win significant wage increase

Santa F.–New Mexico workers and their families celebrated on Friday after the House of Representatives and the Senate agreed to a legislative compromise reached in conference committee that will raise the state’s minimum wage for the first time in over 10 years. The proposal now heads to the governor’s desk for final signature.

A statewide minimum wage coalition mobilized hundreds of workers from across New Mexico during the session in support of a wage hike, coalescing around Rep. Miguel García’s (D-Bernalillo) $12 minimum wage bill (HB 31).

During a conference committee late Thursday night between members of the House and Senate, led negotiations in a final compromise that:

  • Gradually increases state minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2023
  • Gradually increases the “tipped credit” for tipped employees to $3 an hour by 2023
  • Allows for a new sub-minimum wage for students at $8.50 an hour
  • Does not include an annual cost of living adjustment

Below are reactions from low-wage workers and community organizations across New Mexico:

“This is a victory for New Mexico’s working families and came about as a result of years of organizing efforts lead by low-wage workers,” said Margarita Castruita Flores a member of El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos. “We are proud of the contributions that low-wage workers make to our State and this compromise bill is a step in the right direction for our families to obtain financial stability. There is still a lot of work ahead and we will continue to organize our communities to obtain a living wage for all workers in New Mexico.

“Workers and champions like Rep. Miguel Garcia refused to give up,” said Marcela Diaz, Executive Director for Somos Un Pueblo Unido. “By raising the minimum wage, the legislature finally recognized that workers are the backbone of New Mexico’s economy and should be compensated fairly. Getting to $12 per hour will make a big difference for our families in rural communities and local economies.”

OLÉ member Cristal Carter said, “$12/hour by 2023 is a big win for ALL hardworking New Mexico families. We fought hard for this and it shows. Families will now have the stability they need to thrive in our communities because over 200,000 workers across the state of New Mexico will receive the raise they deserve.”

“An increase in the minimum wage will mean a better living situation for the folks in our community who need it the most — people working hard, full time and still on the brink of poverty. It was more difficult than it should have been for the voices of workers to be heard at the legislature and we will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder in the fight for a living wage and true economic security for families across New Mexico,” said J.D. Mathews, State Political Director for New Mexico Working Families Party.

“This victory is the result of workers from all across New Mexico coming together to push for wages that respect their work and allow them to provide for themselves and their families,” said Stephanie Welch, a supervising attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “The increase will help people who receive the lowest wages in the state finally recover some of their lost spending power. It was high time they saw a raise. The cost of living has gone up over the last 10 years, but the minimum wage stayed flat.”