Guaranteed Income

Guaranteed Income: Increasing Employment and Helping Families Thrive

12. 14. 2023

NM ERWG's Guaranteed Income Pilot for mixed-status families addressed COVID disparities, yielding positive impacts.

This report was published by New Mexico Voices for Children.

Executive Summary

During the COVID-19 pandemic, some communities were better protected from illness, death, and economic hardship than others. By and large, communities where people earn low incomes and communities of color experienced worse outcomes. Because undocumented immigrants are likely to earn low incomes and be people of color, they tended to fare poorly. In addition, most immigrants are ineligible to receive the safety-net programs that help families during hard times. Even the relief policies that were enacted specifically to counter the hardships of the pandemic – including federal relief checks – excluded our immigrant communities.

The New Mexico Economic Relief Working Group (ERWG) was organized in March 2020 to address these systemic barriers to economic relief for mixed-immigration status families and workers. In February 2022, ERWG and UpTogether designed, implemented, and evaluated the New Mexico Guaranteed Income Pilot Program for Immigrant Families, an 18-month guaranteed income (GI) pilot program to address poverty and economic security for low-income, mixed-status families and workers in New Mexico.  

The EWRG recruited mixed-status, low-income immigrant families who were ineligible for federal COVID-19 stimulus rebates for the GI pilot. The program selected 330 mixed-immigration status households to receive $500 monthly, no strings attached, for 12 months beginning in February 2022. One-third of households came from rural communities and two-thirds from urban communities. An additional extension was granted to 50 randomly selected mixed-status households to receive $500 monthly for an additional 6 months.

The pilot was evaluated using both qualitative and quantitative interviews. The two quantitative interviews took place both before and after the payment period, while qualitative interviews all took place after. Based on our interview findings, mixed-status families and undocumented workers face greater economic hardship than other New Mexicans: mixed-status households are less likely to have health insurance, stable employment, and household savings. They also have considerably higher rates of housing and food insecurity. Moreover, their exclusion from most of the social safety net further exacerbates their tenuous socio-economic conditions. Despite the numerous challenges mixed-status families and undocumented workers face, our research also found that GI assistance can help reduce these inequities.

  • After receiving GI assistance for a year, our participants reported a noticeable increase in job security.
    • Rural participants and the participants who received the six-month extension reported 14% and 15% increases in employment, respectively.
  • GI assistance improved housing security for participants of the program, in particular those who were struggling the most to make rent or mortgage payments on time.
    • The number of respondents reporting they had trouble paying the rent or mortgage on time almost every month decreased by 35%.
    • Perhaps even more impressive, the group that received the 6-month extension experienced a 73% increase in respondents reporting never having trouble paying the rent or mortgage on time.
  • GI participants with children reported noticeable improvements in educational outcomes.
    • The percentage of participants claiming their child is on track to complete their grade level and graduate increased by 9%.
    • For rural participants, this increase was even greater: it jumped by 13%.