SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Some relief could be heading to New Mexicans struggling during the pandemic as lawmakers get ready for Tuesday’s special session to discuss more than $300 million in financial aid. House Speaker Brian Egolf said this is meant to be a quick session to get as much of the remaining CARES Act money to New Mexicans as fast as possible.
Lawmakers are gearing up for a busy day Tuesday in Santa Fe. “We are going to become the first state in the country to my knowledge to have a special session during a pandemic to provide direct financial assistance to New Mexicans,” Egolf said.
Egolf said this special session will aim to get an emergency relief package passed. Most of the money, about $194 million, would come from the federal CARES Act to provide unemployment assistance, giving a one-time payment of $1,300 to people claiming unemployment who are eligible, or were eligible, but exhausted their benefits since September 12.
Plus, there would be a $100 million grant program for New Mexico-owned small businesses. Each grant would be no more than $50,000. “With the pause, we are in for two weeks, there is a tremendous impact on workers and business owners,” Egolf said.
$10 million would come from the general fund to improve contact tracing, COVID testing, and vaccine implementation. Republican Lawmaker Mark Moores is critical that the bill does not include any relief to help schools reopen or mental health services.
“I plan to be very vocal about this,” Sen. Moores of Albuquerque said. “We are not providing any money for suicide prevention programs during these trying times, so it seems like Santa Fe is once again putting politicians ahead of families in New Mexico.”
In a statement, House Republican leader Jim Townsend said the issues being discussed should have been addressed months ago. He added that House Republicans are negotiating in good faith to deliver relief and stability to New Mexicans.
Egolf said he thought they would have had broad support in the House from the minority, but Egolf said he learned Monday morning that Republican support for the bill was unexpectedly withdrawn without explanation. One thing both parties agree on is that they hope this is a one and done session. “Yes, we will be done tomorrow,” Egolf said.
The special session will be closed to the public and streamed online. Egolf is asking for members to stay in their offices at the Roundhouse or other remote locations and debate via video chat with House leadership on the floor.
The spending proposal also includes money for emergency housing assistance, emergency food bank services, and money to help the courts comply with the public health order.
Townsend’s full statement below:
The Governor’s prescription for treating debilitating COVID-19 is to suggest band-aids and ineffective and too little, too late pain relievers. Yet again, we are being called into Special Session to help remedy issues that should have been addressed months ago. The people of this state have endured and continue to live under the nation’s strictest mandates and yet the spread is one of the highest in the country. House Republicans are negotiating in good-faith to deliver relief and stability to New Mexicans. I sure hope that the Democrats are not planning another outcome like we had over the summer. The time for patting themselves on the back and applauding the actions of a Governor gone rogue, are far past us. Now is the time to provide real solutions, that this Governor has thus far been unable to accomplish with all that executive authority.House Republican Leader Jim Townsend
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