ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – More than 100,000 New Mexicans could soon be facing evictions from their homes, and tens of thousands are currently facing their utilities getting shut off. This comes as the moratoriums that put in place during the pandemic are starting to lift.
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Non-profits said that this has been incredibly stressful for families, but they said there are resources out there to help them make it through. “The pandemic and all the protections that have been in place are coming to an end,” New Mexico Public Regulation Commissioner Joseph Maestas said.
Moratoriums on things like rent and utilities are starting to come to a halt. Tuesday, the moratorium on disconnections expired for small water, gas and rural electric co-ops, which Maestas said covers three-fourths of the state. “These utility companies and co-ops cover the lion’s share of the surface area of the state,” Maestas said.
Maestas said more than 21,000 people those companies serve have accounts that are past due, with a total debt of $7.5 million. That doesn’t include some of the largest companies in the state like PNM. “We are very concerned,” Maestas said.
Maestas said 75 percent of those accounts are now eligible for disconnection. To avoid that, people must be actively seeking aid or on a payment plan. If customers can show they are doing those things, the moratorium extends for them until the public health order lifts. “New Mexicans across the state are hurting,” Maestas said. “Even agencies like the PRC need to be sensitive to that.”
As for rent, the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty said the most recent data shows that anywhere from 50,000 to 105,000 renters are at risk of eviction in our state. However, the center said that data was gathered before the recent passage of federal legislation that provided additional rent relief funds to New Mexico. The center said the eviction moratorium may lift as early as next month. It will end when the public health emergency is over. The governor said last week that the goal is for the state to be fully open by the end of June. “There is a large number of families that could be evicted once the pandemic is over,” Maria Griego with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty said.
The PRC said the utility moratorium for larger companies that serve the majority of people in the state like PNM and El Paso Electric ends in August. They said these investor-owned companies have more resources, and it is easier for them to carry the debt. People can seek rental and utility assistance through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
Two orders by the New Mexico Supreme Court remain and place and continue to put a hold on evictions for inability to pay rent. Click here for more information.