New Mexico’s legislature passed a bill last week offering a $1,000 incentive to employers who hire foster youth who are age 14 and older.
According to Micaela Baca, a former foster youth advocating for Senate Bill 231’s passage, one of the reasons she feels the bill is necessary is to help break the stigma about kids in foster care. Many employers, she told the Santa Fe New Mexican, don’t understand the difference between adjudicated youth who have been removed from their families and those who have broken the law.
The tax credit can only be used by one employer, per year, per youth. It is applicable to any current foster youth older than 14 years, or any former foster youth who was in care in the previous seven years and who is older than 14. The youth must work at least 20 hours per week and not have been previously employed by the employer looking to claim the tax credit.
The bill also requires an annual report to determine how many youth and employers are benefiting from the credit.
If Gov. Susana Martinez (R) signs the bill, advocates expect a few dozen workers to benefit from it the first year and for that number to increase as awareness grows among employers.
A piece of federal legislation to incentivize hiring current and former foster youth is pending in both chambers of Congress. The Improved Employment Outcomes For Foster Youth Act (H.R. 2060 and S. 885) would provide federal tax credits of up to $2,400 to employers who hire current and former foster youth between the ages of 18 and 27.
The U.S. Department of Labor data show that the unemployment rate among New Mexico youth between the ages of 16 and 19 was just over 23 percent in 2016. That number drops to less than 16 percent for youth ages 16 to 24.
Arika Sanchez of the New Mexico Child Advocacy Network told the Santa Fe New Mexican that the bill is the latest in a slate of policy changes created by former foster youth. Previous policy wins include tuition waivers for foster youth and smoother transitions for students transferring from one school to another.