Updated: November 23, 2020 10:23 PM
Created: November 23, 2020 03:16 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Relief may soon be on its way to New Mexicans who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. On Tuesday, state lawmakers will convene for a special legislative session to authorize spending of more than $300 million in federal relief aid.
“We are coming into this session because the people of New Mexico need some help right now,” said New Mexico Speaker of the House Brian Egolf.
With the economy shut down once again, the financial struggles across the state have intensified.
“People are having a hard time making ends meet when it comes to putting food on the table and making the rent, so we are going to be, to my knowledge the first state in the country to have a special session during a pandemic,” Egolf said.
The state has about $300 million in unspent money from the CARES Act. The act was the only relief package that Congress has passed so far.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham laid the following priorities for the special session:
$194 million in direct unemployment assistance, providing for a one-time supplemental benefit of $1,200 to each state unemployment claimant who is eligible for state or federal pandemic unemployment programs or was eligible but has exhausted their benefits under those programs since Sept. 12;
$100 million for a grant program for New Mexico-owned small businesses;
$15 million to provide for emergency housing assistance;
$5 million for emergency food bank services;
$5 million for direct economic assistance to low-income residents, in the form of a one-time $750 disbursement per household, who did not receive an “economic impact payment” from the federal government; and
Other funding necessary to support the administrative organization and execution of these programs.
The remaining funds must be spent the remaining money before the use-it or lose-it deadline of Dec. 30.
“Any money that is not encumbered or spent by the state government by the end of the year under current federal law reverts to the U.S. Treasury,” Egolf said.
From the state’s general fund, lawmakers will debate a bill Tuesday that would add $10 million for the state to increase COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and distributing a vaccine once one becomes available. However, none of it is a done deal yet.
On Monday, Republican House Leader Jim Townsend sent KOB 4 a statement that read in part, “The Governor’s prescription for treating debilitating COVID-19 is to suggest band-aids and too little, too late pain relievers.”
“Literally on a daily basis since last Thursday or Friday, I've been speaking to the minority leadership in the House in detail about the contents of this bill. I have agreed to every one of the minority's request to be included in the bill. Up through last evening, I thought we would be having broad support of the bill,” Speaker Egolf said.
The Roundhouse will be closed to the public due to COVID-19 concerns, but people can follow the debates on the legislature’s web page.
Copyright 2020 - KOB-TV LLC, A Hubbard Broadcasting Company