Why New Mexico’s Guaranteed Income Pilot is a Big Deal

The results of a groundbreaking guaranteed income pilot in New Mexico are in! The pilot confirms that direct cash assistance works to alleviate poverty and help families get ahead.

What makes the New Mexico pilot different? It’s one of the only statewide guaranteed income initiatives and the only one focusing on immigrant families. The pilot also included rural and urban households. In all, 330 mixed-immigration status households received unrestricted cash payments of $500 monthly for 12 months from February 2022 to February 2023.

UpTogether partnered on this effort with EL CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos, NM CAFé, NM Voices for Children, Partnership for Community Action, and Somos un Pueblo Unido.

The findings were unveiled at a press conference in Santa Fe on December 12.  Some highlights from the Guaranteed Income Pilot Program for Immigrant Families in New Mexico: 

  • Participants reporting that they had trouble paying the rent or mortgage on time: 35% decrease
  • Participants reporting having to reduce or forego expenses for basic household necessities, such as medicine or food, in order to pay the rent or mortgage: 9% decrease
  • Participants reporting that their child is on track to complete their grade level and graduate: 9% increase
  • Both rural (17%) and urban (36%) participants saw decreases in unstable work schedules.

“The program was a lifeline and I liked the fact the program showed that as working class families, we can be trusted and are capable of making decisions about how we spend our money in the best interest of our families. I also see it as an investment in New Mexico families who contribute as workers, taxpayers and consumers,” said Maria de Carmen de Jesus Guerrero, a participant from Albuquerque.

UpTogether’s Senior Director of Partnerships, Ivanna Neri, spoke at the press conference, and noted that UpTogether has been working in New Mexico since 2014. “At the time, this idea of providing unrestricted cash transfers while trusting that communities knew what was best for themselves was radical. And here we are today, sharing how this radical idea has become a policy priority for different cities across New Mexico, including the state,” she said.

The pilot came about as a result of the nearly $25 million, including $11 million from UpTogether, that the State and localities invested directly in more than 32,000 New Mexico households throughout the pandemic. 

The pilot focused on the three core principles of the UpTogether Approach: Community. Capital. Choice. We recognize and honor people’s strengths, abilities, and self-determination. 

“We’re excited to see that the results in this pilot confirm that poverty is a policy choice and that cash is a powerful tool to address systemic inequities,” said Neri. “People need full choice and control over their lives. They know what’s best for their families. By trusting and investing in people, we celebrate their ability to find their own ways to get ahead.”

Neri made the point that we spend more than $400 billion per year on welfare programs, most of which are a part of a deficit-based system that relies on a well-intentioned but top-down, paternalistic approach where people have to show their deficit and neediness. 

“Today we are presented with an alternative that works, provides dignity and is efficient. Let’s use these results to push forward policy changes that expand cash assistance in people and under-resourced communities,” Neri concluded. “Through this groundbreaking pilot, we are making the case in New Mexico and across the country that we need to fundamentally change our systems.”

Read more about the results here.

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