This year, a nonprofit coalition is offering 330 New Mexican and mixed-status immigrant families $500 a month in financial assistance through what they call the Guaranteed Basic Income program.
The families — 105 of whom are from the southern New Mexico counties of Grant, Luna, Hidalgo and Doña Ana — went through an application process earlier this year and are expected to receive their first payment this month.
“We received over 1,500 applications from across the state,” said Nena Benavidez, community organizer for NM Comunidades en Acción y de Fé, or NM CAFé, one of the organizations that helped develop and promote the program. “The 330 families that were chosen were put into a pool and randomly selected.”
The pilot program was developed by six nonprofit organizations, most of them based in New Mexico. The groups — UpTogether, NM CAFé, El Centro, Somos un Pueblo Unido, New Mexico Voices for Children and Partnership for Community Action — have come together in hopes of helping immigrant families directly impacted by the economic effects of the pandemic.
“Many mixed-status families did not receive any pandemic assistance due to one family member not being documented, so even though many of them are working and paying taxes, they don’t didn’t get pandemic aid,” Benavidez says. “So part of this GBI program came about because there are a lot of mixed-status or undocumented families that need help. They’re still New Mexicans, they’re still paying taxes, they’re still part of our community.
The idea of a universal basic income has gained momentum in the United States after being heavily promoted by Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang in 2019. Several major cities have implemented their own testing programs and , last March, 42 cities had joined the mayors. for Guaranteed Income, a program that helps them run their own pilot projects, most of which involve at least some public funding.
Benavidez said the New Mexico program is funded entirely by charitable donations, including a large donation from “one particular philanthropist” who asked to remain anonymous.
“It’s more of a philanthropic project,” she says. “It’s in no way funded by the government.”
The application period began on January 24 and ended on February 7, during which candidates provided identification and answered questions about their status and involvement in the online community through a portal created by the UpTogether Foundation. According to Benavidez, applicants had to meet certain prerequisites before being considered for the program.
“They had to live and prove residency in one of New Mexico’s 13 counties, which included Grant, Luna, Doña Ana and Hidalgo,” she said. “Candidates had to be undocumented or mixed, [and] must have had a child or dependent.
She added that applicants must also be eligible for one of the many local economic relief funds.
Families who have been chosen are already receiving support from the Guaranteed Basic Income program.
“They got their first payment this month, and that will continue through January of next year,” Benavidez said, adding that the program is a study that seeks to “see what happens when people have had enough.”
She noted that by observing similar programs, her organization has achieved extraordinary results.
“What we’ve seen in other GBIs are people who start businesses, people who have enough to save, people who get ahead on their bills, people who can buy reliable vehicles,” he said. she declared. “[We’ve seen] kids who eat better, do better in school — basic things like that are coming out of GBIs all over the United States.
One of the 105 families receiving a Guaranteed Basic Income under the New Mexico program resides in neighboring Luna County. Family members of three asked to be referred to by their first names in an interview with the Daily Press. Alfonso and his wife, Laura, have a young daughter and were struggling with the basics during the pandemic.
“Because they are here on tourist visas, they were not eligible to receive the assistance that was being provided,” said NM CAFé organizer Beatrice Armendariz, who spoke on behalf of the family in as a translator. She said the family’s requests for various support programs have been futile, as their tourist status prevents them from receiving government assistance for things like rent and food – a reality they have faced harshly over the past few years. last two years.
Alfonso “is a food distributor here in Luna County, and he was considered essential,” Armendariz said. “So he hasn’t stopped working at all during the pandemic.”
He and his family are also very active in the community. Alfonso is a leader for NM CAFé and has even helped promote the GBI program.
“They’re really active in the church, and they volunteer and help out in the community,” Armendariz said, “so for them to not have that opportunity to benefit from those resources was really heartbreaking.”
Since NM CAFé only joined in developing and promoting the program late in the process, Alfonso’s family was unaware of this program at first.
“We jumped on it when we heard about the GBI,” Armendariz said. “Two or three days after applying, [we were] approved.”
Alfonso and Laura expressed their gratitude for the help and said it would help them immensely over the next year.
“Because of the pandemic, they’ve fallen behind on some bills, and it’s always been difficult to keep up,” Armendariz said. “That extra $500 a month is a relief, because [his family] can pay their rent and know they won’t be late.
The program is unique in that what families decide to spend the $500 each month is entirely up to their discretion. Benavidez says it’s vital to the program’s mission.
“It says we trust you and you know your family best, and that’s the truth,” she said. “The preoccupation with ‘Well, we’re just supporting habits’, or that sort of thing – that’s not our belief at all. Our belief is that when we support families, we support communities.
All organizations involved will work closely with families in the program throughout the year to monitor their progress and see how income affects their lives.
“Participants will have training and interaction throughout the process,” Benavidez said, “so it’s not like we’re going to send them $500 and not talk to them at all. It’s a very interactive process. .
At the end of the year, the 330 families who have received help will complete a “comprehensive survey” that will allow organizers to see how their program has helped.
“I’m super excited to see what comes out of it, to see what people have done and what they’ve been able to accomplish,” Benavidez said. “If someone’s kid has to go to their first semester of college because of this – or someone’s mom, for that matter.
“Or if it just relieves the pressure of someone not sleeping at night, because they don’t know how they’re going to pay their electricity bill, or if they’re worried if their kids are going to have running water to take a shower before school. If that makes someone feel better, then they’ve accomplished everything they set out to do.
Benavidez said NM CAFé is working to ensure it’s not the last program of its kind.
“Ideally that’s just the start,” she said. “We hope to expand this program to different demographics and meet the real needs of our community. »
David Marquez can be reached at [email protected] press.com.