BELEN, N.M. (KRQE) – The governor on Tuesday signed the COVID spending bill approved by lawmakers in the special session. The $480 million bill allocates more than $120 million for improving broadband, money to improve roads, a scholarship program for those wanting to become teachers, and millions for the homeless and affordable housing.

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The signing was held in front of the Belen hospital that closed in 1990 because the bill also includes $50 million to build a hospital in a rural New Mexico community. While that $50 million could go to any New Mexico county with fewer than 100,000 people who applied for the funds, Valencia County officials who have been working for decades to build one say they’re confident they’re the front runners.

“When this hospital closed in March of 1990, I was chief of staff and was witness to the sorrow that we all felt: patients, employees of this hospital, and citizens of this entire community. Having this resource in front of us as a possibility is uplifting,” said Dr. Richard Madden of Presbyterian Primary Care.

Valencia County has $23 million saved from a mill levy earmarked for the operation of a hospital. They even broke ground at one point on a facility but lawsuits, challenges over the location, and finding a provider to sign on kept derailing the plans.