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Emergency Economic Relief Bill Helps Those In Need
New Mexico is in Round 2 of what is arguably the worst pandemic and economic crisis to ever hit the state. On Nov. 24 Governor Michele Lujan Grisham called an emergency special session of the State Legislature to pass an economic relief bill to help the unemployed and small businesses that are struggling to survive. The priorities for the special session were to provide additional assistance to unemployed workers, grants for small businesses, emergency housing assistance and emergency food bank assistance.
The total budget allocated for the emergency bill is $750 million. The monies available for disbursement are:
- $194 million in direct unemployment assistance, providing for a one-time supplemental payment of $1,200 to anyone currently receiving unemployment benefits from the state pandemic unemployment programs or anyone who was eligible but has exhausted their benefits under those programs since Sept. 12 of this year
- $100 million for a grant program for New Mexico-owned small businesses, including non-profit organizations
- $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 for households that did not receive an “economic impact payment” from the federal government
Funding for this relief bill will come from federal CARES Act dollars that, by law, must be spent by the end of the year. A small portion of the budget, $10 million, comes from the state general fund. Amendments to the bill included one-time payments to essential workers in New Mexico. There was some argument in the State Senate about the definition of what an essential worker is and who would be eligible for the benefits. The State Health Department has outlined definitions of who is considered an essential worker during a pandemic.
“New Mexicans are hurting; and without more federal economic relief in sight, we have to take action now,” said Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth. “Assisting our small businesses, shoring up unemployment funds to help displaced workers and providing some relief for people struggling with food and housing are all priorities the legislature strongly supports.” [ ]