New Mexico lawmakers pass COVID-19 relief package, send bill to governor | KOB 4

New Mexico lawmakers pass COVID-19 relief package, send bill to governor

Tessa Mentus, Chris Ramirez
Updated: November 25, 2020 06:21 AM
Created: November 24, 2020 04:42 PM

UPDATE: The New Mexico Senate passed House Bill 1 to provide relief to people impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill will go to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for final approval. The special legislative session was adjourned around 6:30 p.m.

This is a developing story. Stay with and KOB 4 for updates. 

— Rep. Javier Martínez (@JavierForNM) November 25, 2020

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- In an effort to get help to those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers met for a special legislative session Tuesday.

The Roundhouse is closed to the public, and protesters gathered outside, demanding to be allowed to participate.

"The voices of the people are not being heard. The governor is behind closed doors because of COVID is the excuse," said Hanah Israel. 

People can watch a livestream of the discussions in both the House and Senate.

In the House Appropriation and Finance Committee meeting Tuesday, lawmakers took public comments from people who joined virtually.

And the Senate has taken public comments in the form of emails.

For those allowed inside, they have to wear a mask and social distance.

Many state lawmakers are participating from their Roundhouse offices instead of on the Senate and House floors.

As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, lawmakers were still trying to decide how to distribute $337 million in federal funds

The governor's plan includes:

  • $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.

However, lawmakers have other ideas about how the money should be spent.

"Essential workers that are on the front lines. We want to keep them working and not going into the unemployment lines," said Sen. Candace Gould, a Republican. "It's imperative that we keep them out there, providing the services that are essential. So, this is a way to reward them and tell them that they matter too. We hear them and see them and that we're going to give them a little help as well. 

Both the House and Senate appear to be making progress on their bills. However, nothing is finalized. Lawmakers planed for the special session to last one day. 

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