New Report Shows Positive Outcomes with Guaranteed Income Pilot Program

Immigrant advocacy organizations prep to ask the state for long-term funding

News Somos Un Pueblo Unido Founding Executive Director Marcela Diaz speaks to attendees at the start of the press conference. (Evan Chandler)

New Mexico should fund a long-term guaranteed basic income program to help immigrant families, advocacy groups said Tuesday as they gathered at the Roundhouse to present research about a pilot program funded with philanthropic dollars that improved outcomes for participants in food, housing security and health.

After receiving guaranteed income checks for a year, families reported a 35% decrease in trouble paying rent or mortgage on time. The study also found a 9% decrease in participants who had to reduce or forego expenses for basic household necessities, such as medicine or food, in order to meet housing expenses.

The groups EL CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos; NM CAFé; NM Voices for Children; Partnership for Community Action; and Somos Un Pueblo Unido, which constitute the NM Economic Relief Working Group, collaborated with Oakland-based nonprofit organization UpTogether to design and implement the 18-month program that put out over $2 million.

The program selected 330 mixed-immigration status households to receive unconditional direct cash transfers of $500 for 12 months. One-third of participants hailed from rural communities like Hidalgo County, while two-thirds were from the state’s urban areas such as Bernalillo, Doña Ana and Santa Fe counties.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, immigrant families were “not only excluded from pandemic relief, but also social safety nets,” leading them to be the focus of the program, NM Voices for Children Javier Senior Research and Policy Javier Rojo said during a news conference. Such exclusion took place despite mixed-status households reportedly paying $68 million in local and state taxes yearly in New Mexico. Rojo tells SFR a guaranteed income program “fundamentally empowers people to make their own decisions,” because they know best what their needs are.

“And people are smart enough to make them. I think oftentimes there’s this huge concern if you give money [with] no strings attached to low-income people that they are going to misuse that money by buying stuff that they shouldn’t be buying, but that is a misconception.” he adds. “Our data and other reports across the country prove that when people actually receive money, they use it intelligently. And not only did they use it to cover their housing costs and the cost of living and food, but they invested in themselves to improve themselves economically.”

Somos Un Pueblo Unido Founding Executive Director Marcela Diaz says findings paint a very clear picture: “Employment increases when you give this steady supplemental income to folks, so that they can actually think about their medium term and long term economic prospects.”

In fact, rural participants documented a 14% increase in employment after the program. Both urban and rural participants reported a decrease in unstable work schedules—36% and 17% respectively.

This project is one of many across the country, Rojo says, pointing to “a growing movement” of support for guaranteed income programs.

The City of Santa Fe used a grant from the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, along with funding from the American Rescue Plan Act for a similar pilot that began in 2020 for students at the Santa Fe Community College.

“Poverty is a policy choice,” UpTogether Senior Director of Partnerships Ivanna Neri said during the press conference. “Through this pilot, we’re making a case for systemic change.”

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