EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Hispanic families in New Mexico – particularly those who are Spanish-speaking, live in rural areas or lack lawful immigration status – are still being disproportionally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and need help from their state legislature, a coalition of grassroots organizations says.

“We’re calling on them to provide funding to help support and stabilize this segment of the community that is falling behind” the rest of the state, said Marcela Diaz, a member of Somos un Pueblo Unido.

The various organizations under the banner of New Mexico Economic Relief Working Group on Thursday sent a letter to legislators requesting tax credits and stimulus payments to the working poor in the state.

The group presented the results of a new poll showing the disproportionate effects of the pandemic on Hispanics. The poll says 26 percent spent all of their savings last year and have gone into debt, while 60 percent have less than $1,000 in savings and 30 percent aren’t paying their bills on time.

The poll says 28 percent of Hispanics in New Mexico earned less than $20,000 a year in 2021, in some cases because their hours were cut or they were sent home when schools and businesses shut down or reduced operations.

On the health front, 25 percent of Latinos in New Mexico have a family member who has died of COVID-19. This has to do with lack of adequate access to medical care and higher rates of underlying conditions that place their lives at risk once they contract the coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that Hispanics are twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to develop type 2 diabetes, for instance.

“This emphasizes that Latinos have suffered higher infection and casualty rates than non-Hispanic whites and are twice more likely to be hospitalized,” said Gabe Sanchez, lead researcher for BSP, which conducted the bilingual, telephone and internet survey of 1,000 Hispanics in New Mexico

Sanchez said those who live in rural settings, speak primarily Spanish, lack immigration status or are female are experiencing the most severe economic challenges. Immigration status prevented some from getting the federal stimulus checks and language barriers and lack of information kept others from applying for state aid.

The bottom line is that a large number of Latinos in the state are having to make difficult choices with the money they do have.

Mirna Lazcano, a member of the Albuquerque-based El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos, says her own family has faced some of those difficult choices.

“During the pandemic, my husband, who works in construction, and I have accumulated financial debt since they cut our hours. We have both gotten sick from COVID,” she said. “We live day to day to pay bills and keep the utilities on. […] We shop the least expensive brands (of groceries) and limit the amount of meat we eat.”

Lazcano, who cleans houses and babysits for a living, said she has gone to food banks to make sure her family has enough to eat.

The members of New Mexico Economic Relief Working Group are calling on their state legislature to allocate $15.6 million to the Human Services Department so low-income adults can get a $600 stimulus payment. They’re also calling for tax credits and other benefits for families making less than $35,000 a year.

The New Mexico legislature is in session next week.