State lawmakers adjourn special session after passing COVID-19 relief package | KOB 4

State lawmakers adjourn special session after passing COVID-19 relief package

Ryan Laughlin
Updated: November 24, 2020 11:07 PM
Created: November 24, 2020 10:13 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — State lawmakers came to a consensus during the Tuesday special session on how to spend more than $300 million federal dollars to help struggling communities. 

Both the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved House Bill 1.

The largest chunk of funds is $194 million for unemployment assistance. Most unemployed workers will receive a $1,200 check.

$100 million will be allocated for certain local businesses and nonprofit groups. Grants worth up to $50,000 could be awarded to businesses and nonprofits that apply.

Assistance for rent, mortgages, and food banks are also included in HB1.

The state senate debated for several hours about an amendment that would have given essential workers hazard pay, but lawmakers were  not able to come to an agreement. 

"And I am frustrated  because I want to offer essential workers more than my thoughts and my prayers. "The public health orders actually don't define essential workers. It defines essential businesses and I realize if we're going to try and do this on the floor we need to make sure we do it correctly,” said Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-District 15).

"How can we sit here as a legislative body and say the fact that the government has decided that these workers, for their safety, stay home. But, for the common good and the fact that we'll have food stocked on the grocery shelves, that this person, we must risk their health and safety. This is a way we can say, both are important,” added Sen. Cliff Pirtle (R-Distrct 32).

Ultimately, the logistical challenge of defining then distributing the funds to essential workers caused the senate to vote down the amendment. Many legislators said they’ll pick it up again during the 60-day legislative session in January.

Still, the governor’s mostly unchanged proposal passed and was celebrated by some legislators. 

"Every strategy we undertake to manage the virus and to introduce some risk is intended to save lives, prevent the hospitals from being overwhelmed and keep our economy moving to the highest degree that we can. And those numbers just keep escalating, and we had no option but to reset. That meant more folks, right, unemployed, so the timing was about making sure that we provide immediate relief to New Mexicans who need it,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. 

The governor said she expects to sign the bill into law by Wednesday and that unemployed New Mexicans should expect that $1,200 to hit their bank accounts by the middle of December or sooner. 

Any unspent federal money will not go back to the federal government. Instead, it will go into the state’s unemployment fund.

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