Commentary: Advocacy groups from across the state urged New Mexico’s leaders to exercise their emergency powers and provide emergency assistance, access to healthcare, and other relief to stem the rising financial insecurity and income inequality caused by the coronavirus crises.
The recommendations were sent to Governor Lujan Grisham, Attorney General Balderas, Chief Justice Nakamura, Speaker Egolf, Senator Papen, Mayor Keller, Mayor Webber, Mayor Hull, and Mayor Miyagishima.
“Our state’s response must focus on and involve the communities already experiencing the impact of economic inequality,” states the letter sent by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, Forward Together, Strong Families New Mexico, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry - New Mexico, New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness, New Mexico Voices for Children, NM Comunidades en Acción y de Fé - CAFé, Health Action New Mexico, United South Broadway, Fair Lending Center, Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP), Catholic Charities - Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico Social Justice Equity Institute, McKinley Co. Assn. of Retired Educators, and multiple individuals.
- Enact emergency paid sick leave and pass local paid sick leave ordinances that guarantee paid sick leave for all workers.
- Eliminate the one-week delay in unemployment benefits.
Ensure economic security
- Create a new emergency income assistance program.
- Stay wage garnishments and bank levies in the courts.
- Streamline access to Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and cash assistance for workers who have lost their jobs by allowing enrollment when filing for unemployment insurance.
- Extend eligibility, suspend work requirements and sanctions, and delay all public benefits recertification requirements.
Healthcare for all
- Provide for immediate access to healthcare through Medicaid for all Medicaid applicants.
- Assure immigrant communities that screening and treatment for COVID-19 do not impact public charge determinations and will not have immigration consequences.
- Ensure hospitals and clinics are safe spaces regardless of immigration status.
- Require employers maintain health insurance benefits regardless of reduction of work hours resulting from the pandemic.
- Call for a federal amendment to the Medicaid statutes to add a state option extending coverage to the uninsured for all medical services in connection with COVID-19.
Moratorium on evictions, foreclosures, towing, and utility shut offs
- Stay all court eviction and foreclosure proceedings statewide to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent an increase in homelessness in New Mexico.
- Create a rent relief fund to help impacted families.
- Stop all utility shut offs.
- Place a moratorium on towing vehicles.
Include all New Mexicans in the response to this crisis
- Protect New Mexicans without homes by providing emergency resources to shelters and on-location medical care.
- Local governments should affirm their institutional commitment to all immigrant community members who may be targets of xenophobic behavior.
- Reduce the number of people in custody and release nonviolent defendants and people serving sentences for nonviolent offenses.
The groups commend government officials and state leaders for the expedient initial steps already taken to mitigate the harm New Mexicans are facing. However, the groups maintain that much remains to be done without delay to protect the wellbeing of all New Mexico’s families.
The full recommendations can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/strategies-to-mitigate-covid-19-impact-on-nm-2020-03-18/
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.