Many Hispanic families in New Mexico are struggling to stay afloat financially through another year of the pandemic, according to a survey published last week by a statewide economic relief coalition.

Advocates and politicians are calling for state lawmakers to use American Rescue Plan funds this year to help mitigate the financial impacts of COVID-19, which researchers say disproportionately hurt New Mexico’s Hispanic women, rural residents and Spanish speakers.

The bilingual survey of 1,000 Hispanic adults, including nearly 250 immigrants, was conducted last month by polling firm BSP Research and commissioned by New Mexico Economic Relief Working Group, a coalition of organizations that includes children advocacy nonprofit New Mexico Voices for Children and the immigrant rights group Somos Un Pueblo Unido. The effort was a follow-up to a smaller survey conducted in 2020.

More than half of respondents reported having $1,000 or less saved for financial emergencies, while more than a quarter had blown through savings or gone into debt during the coronavirus pandemic. Thirty percent reported issues paying bills on time — while 34 percent have cut down on basic household goods to keep up.

In a news conference, lead researcher Gabriel Sanchez said rural residents were nearly twice as likely to report being at risk for foreclosure or eviction compared to urban respondents, while Latina women showed higher rates of difficulty paying utilities than men.

“While we see and hear, at the state and national level, that there are many families that have savings … we know there’s a big chunk of the Latino and immigrant community that is far behind,” Somos Un Pueblo Unido director Marcela Díaz said.

Lawmakers have apportioned $12 million in federal pandemic relief money to the state’s Human Services Department since 2020, and 45 elected officials in the state signed a letter Thursday asking the Legislature to allocate $15.6 million more from American Rescue Plan Act funds to provide direct cash support to families ineligible for pandemic-era help, such as federal stimulus rebates.

When the legislative session kicks off today, lawmakers will be making budgetary decisions on a $1.6 billion surplus that is alongside increased funding from federal pandemic relief funds.

“Groups that did not receive one or more of the federal stimulus rebates included Native Americans, mixed status immigrant families, and other very low-income residents who did not file taxes in 2018 or 2019,” reads a Thursday letter signed by 45 elected officials, including Mayor Alan Webber, Santa Fe County commissioners and local school board members.

“Many of these same New Mexican families, despite being longtime taxpayers and essential workers in key industries, were also excluded from unemployment benefits and other safety net programs,” the letter says.

It’s not just economic hardship disproportionately hitting Hispanic families, Sanchez said. The survey showed 24 percent of Hispanic families in New Mexico reported a family member or friend has died from COVID-19.

Data from the state Department of Health shows Hispanic New Mexicans, who make up 49.3 percent of the state’s population, also account for 42 percent of all COVID-19 cases and 43.1 percent of hospitalizations.

Native Americans, who make up 11 percent of the state’s population and 13 percent of the state’s cases, also account for 26.2 percent of the state’s hospitalizations, according to a Jan. 10 hospitalization report.

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