Updated: November 19, 2020 11:53 AM
Created: November 18, 2020 10:14 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The need for federal COVID relief money is greater than ever—especially in a state like New Mexico—but lawmakers on Capitol Hill remain deadlocked over a second COVID relief package.
Now nine months into the pandemic, everyone is hurting. Workforce agencies said Wednesday that funds are running low. On Tuesday, Albuquerque Tim Keller alongside other business experts said they need help.
The state has received $1.25 billion from the CARES Act, which was passed by Congress back in March.
Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich said getting more money to New Mexico is his top priority.
“I really don’t think we should be doing anything else. In the coming days or weeks, this should be the only thing on the floor of the House and Senate,” Sen. Heinrich said.
“If the state government is going to ask businesses to close their doors and limit their occupancy, we have to find ways to see them through that,” he added.
Heinrich said Congress needs to move fast.
“If we don’t do this, the economic fallout is going to be dramatically worse," he said. “More people lose their homes. More people lose their jobs. More people lose their businesses. Then, digging out of that is going to be dramatically harder than just keeping the economy going.”
Heinrich said the best bet would be to lump in the relief with the annual end-of-year spending bill, but added that many Senate Republicans aren’t willing to get it done, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell said he doesn’t want to spend as much as Democrats are proposing.
Former Congressman and current chair for the New Mexico Republican Party Steve Pearce said any more relief money would have to be warranted.
“Where did $1.25 billion go? That’s a lot of money for New Mexico. Our normal budget is about $7 billion, so that’s a huge amount. Let’s see where it’s been spent, and I think Congress should ask for accountability from all the states,” Pearce said.
Pearce said states should be asked how the CARES Act money was spent.
KOB 4 reached out to the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration where a spokesperson said the vast majority of the funding was given to local agencies. How the money is spent is up to each agency.
Only about a quarter of the funds have been spent so far. The state still has some leftover funds that can be used, which state lawmakers may address if there’s a special session in the near future.
The following is a list of statements from other New Mexico lawmakers about COVID relief funds.
Sen. Tom Udall:
“COVID-19 cases are surging in New Mexico and across the country. This pandemic is far from over and New Mexicans need a lifeline now as we continue to battle this health and economic crisis together. If we want to keep our communities and economies safe, we need a relief package for our schools, small businesses, the unemployed, state, local and Tribal governments, and our health care system. It is unconscionable that Senate Majority Leader McConnell has put this on the backburner for months while people are suffering and more and more business close their doors for good. Partisan fighting at the cost of thousands of lives must stop – Republicans should come to the table so we can fight the virus and rebuild our economy.”
Rep. Deb Haaland:
“New Mexico families work hard and need support right now, and we’re pushing in Congress to get another relief package that includes more stimulus payments, support for small businesses, unemployment benefits, and resources for our healthcare heroes. Senate Republicans stalled for six months, they need to act on the bills we’ve put forward."
Rep. Xochitl Torres Small:
“New Mexicans are struggling to put food on the table, keep up with their monthly bills, and keep their businesses afloat. Over 1,200 New Mexicans have died due to COVID-19, leaving family and loved ones behind to mourn. New Mexicans need relief now. I’m proud of the work I’ve done as part of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus to identify where Republicans and Democrats agree on COVID-19 relief. Those areas of agreement include direct relief to state, local, and tribal governments; support for farmers and farm workers who keep our grocery shelves stocked; another wave of the Paycheck Protection Program and streamlined loan forgiveness to help small businesses stay afloat; and continued support for our healthcare infrastructure. Let’s use this framework as a way to quickly deliver relief to the American people.”
Rep. Ben Ray Luján:
“New Mexico families and businesses are hurting during this public health and economic crisis, and they need immediate relief to help put food on the table, keep a roof over their heads, and keep their doors open. We also must provide our hospitals and frontline health care workers with the resources they need save lives during the dangerous surge of cases that New Mexico is experiencing. That’s why for months, I have championed the Heroes Act, which provides enhanced unemployment benefits for those who lost jobs through no fault of their own, includes direct payments to families and individuals, delivers additional relief to our small businesses, and shores up our health care system. I have also championed the Coronavirus Community Relief Act to provide support to local governments, and fought for robust aid for state and Tribal governments so they can keep workers on the payroll and continue providing the essential services that New Mexicans depend on.
It is a dereliction of duty for Senate Republicans and the White House to sit on their hands as Americans suffer, and I urge them to come to the table and work with us to provide immediate relief for their constituents.”
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