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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU Extension Reports Job Development Success

LAS CRUCES - New Mexico State University's ongoing program to help low-income families take positive steps toward employment, known as New Mexico Works, led the state in placing participants in new jobs this year, according to a new report.

Fifty-six percent of New Mexico Works participants here in southwestern New Mexico were in full- or part-time paid employment, according to the New Mexico Human Services Department's latest statistics, which covered a 12-month reporting period ending in June. The regional program served 4,735 individuals and placed 2,639 in the paid work force.

"We had more employment placements here in Region III than any other region in the state," said Sandra Corriveau, associate director of New Mexico Works in Las Cruces. "The overall emphasis of the program is 'work first' model, and Region III embraced that model. We work very closely with employers throughout the region." She stressed that the program's heavy emphasis on education and training also contributed to the success rate.

New Mexico Works, administered locally under a yearly contract between NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service and the state Human Services Department's Income Support Division, provides training, education, job placement assistance for participants in nine counties: Catron, Doņa Ana, Grant, Hidalgo, Lincoln, Luna, Otero, Sierra and Socorro. Doņa Ana County led in the number of clients with 2,839 new assessments. Socorro County was second at 482 clients and Otero County was third with 437 clients.

The program requires adults to work or get job training while they receive cash benefits. Participants may also receive food stamps or medical assistance. The cash assistance program has a five-year lifetime limit on benefits. Neither the food stamps nor Medicaid assistance programs are time limited.

Corriveau explained that after an individual enters the New Mexico Works program, he or she is assessed to determine educational level, job skills and employment interests. Supportive services, including childcare and transportation, are provided. Case managers help develop individualized plans to help participants enter the work force, she said.

Among the educational activities featured in the program are literacy training, adult basic education, and high school equivalency training and testing, as well as post secondary and vocational training. Along with the many efforts that center on job skills training, New Mexico Works conducts job fairs and provides support services.

NMSU Extension has played a key role in helping New Mexicans make the transition from welfare to work since 1998. At that time NMSU was awarded contracts from New Mexico's Human Services Department to provide services to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF recipients. Since its inception more than 17,000 people have been assessed in the NMSU program, and 9,442 people in the region secured jobs.

Statewide, the number of households receiving cash assistance has dropped from more than 34,000 in 1995 to fewer than 18,000 now. To be eligible for the New Mexico Works program, people must be eligible for TANF or food stamp benefits and be referred by the state Human Service Department's Income Support Division.

Eligibility for TANF is based on families with children with a household income that is less than 85 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. Food stamp eligibility is based on household income that is less than 130 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.