Transforming child care in New Mexico

Transforming child care in New Mexico

While most states used federal relief dollars to keep their child care industries afloat during the pandemic, New Mexico leaders used the influx of cash to transform a critical sector that helps families work and children reach their full potential. New Mexico used its $436 million federal grant to, among other things, greatly expand access to care and improve conditions for staff and children at facilities. The Washington Post’s Casey Parks profiles Elizabeth Groginsky, who led New Mexico’s early learning efforts, who is trying to figure out how to sustain the improvements when the federal dollars dry up.  

“It’s not unique to New Mexico that our country has not funded a prenatal-to-5 system,” Groginsky said. “It has been historically underfunded, and that resulted in low wages, predominantly for women of color who have been doing this work and have not had their work valued. And it’s gone on so long, and this state and this governor have said, ‘No more.’ The governor ultimately wants [child care] to be free for everybody, everywhere, permanently. Right now, we’re using the federal relief dollars to make that happen through June of 2023.” [Siobhan] Coffelt raised her hand again.“Everything you are doing is great,” she said. But, like the teachers in Roswell, Coffelt didn’t want to increase salaries one year, only to have to bring them back down when the relief dollars ran out. 

Access to early care and education programming would become a constitutional right in New Mexico if voters in the Land of Enchantment approve a ballot measure that would pay for the services by drawing on a state trust fund made up of oil and gas revenue.

A drive to end pollution
Federal grants from the Environmental Protection Agency will deploy smart cars to monitor and record air pollution in Louisiana’s petrochemical corridor. The effort is part of a $2 million grant Louisiana received on Thursday, which is fully paid for through the sweeping climate, tax and health care package that Congress passed over the summer. The Times-Picayune’s Mark Schleifstein explains how the initiative, and others in the state, is linked to a new focus on civil rights and environmental justice.

“People who live in communities that experience environmental and air quality challenges know their experiences better than anyone else,” Regan said in a telephone news conference. “They can tell you about those mornings when smog lingers in the air, making it more difficult to breathe, or those days when their child’s asthma is particularly challenging to treat. So it’s time that we empower American communities with the tools and the resources they need to track critical data about the air that they breathe.” He called out the Louisiana chemical corridor, often referred to by environmentalists as “cancer alley,” as a key focus of the new grants.

A quarter of grandfamilies face hunger
Children in grandparent-headed households face higher rates of food insecurity, meaning they struggle to get enough to eat, than other children, according to a new report from Generations United. According to the authors, one-fourth of “grandfamilies” experienced food insecurity between 2019 and 2020, more than twice the national rate. The Washington Post’s Michelle Singletary speaks to grandparents who are raising their grandchildren, including Kathy Coleman of Baton Rouge, about their struggles to put enough food on the table and the barriers, misconceptions and stigmas that cause low participation rates in safety-net programs designed to help.

One finding, in particular, stood out: In 2019, only 42 percent of low-income, grandparent-headed households with grandchildren younger than 18 participated in the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. There are a lot of reasons these families don’t seek those benefits. Grandparents who responsibly accumulated assets don’t always meet the low-income eligibility in their state to qualify for SNAP. About 46 percent of grandparents responsible for raising their grandchildren are 60 or older. “Children shouldn’t go hungry because their caregivers were careful financially,” said Donna Butts, the executive director of Generations United.

Are there health risks of daylight savings time?
This weekend marked the bi-annual tradition of adjusting our clocks, upsetting sleeping habits and debating about whether standard time or daylight savings time should be the norm year round. A number of states, including Louisiana, have trigger laws to make daylight savings time permanent the moment the federal government approves the measure. Congress seemed poised to end the debate earlier this year, but a bill to codify daylight savings time into law has stalled. While daylight savings time seems to be the consensus of policymakers, health care officials warn of the dangers of making the “spring forward” permanent. CNN’s Sandee LaMotte reports

Standard time, which we enter when we move our clocks back in the fall, is much closer to the sun’s day and night cycle, (Dr. Phyllis) Zee (a sleep researcher) said. This cycle has set our circadian rhythm, or body clock, for centuries. … When our internal clocks are offset from the solar day-night cycle by even one hour we develop what sleep experts call “social jet lag.” Studies have shown social jet lag increases the risk of metabolic disorders such as diabetes, raises the risk of heart disease and stroke, worsens mood disorders such as depression, affects the digestive and endocrine systems and shortens our sleep duration. It can even reduce life expectancy,

Number of the Day
$307 billion – Amount of flexible pandemic funds that states have received from the federal government. States used these funds to support or bolster education, health care and other vital programs. (Source: Pew)