Governor Lujan Grisham and delegation welcome passage of COVID-19 relief bill
Congressional Democrats backed the bill while Republican Rep. Yvette Herrell voted no
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Staff Video, USA TODAY
This story has been updated to note that President Biden signed the legislation.
WASHINGTON – New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Democratic members of the state’s congressional delegation on Wednesday celebrated billions in federal aid expected to reach the state as early as this month, including payments direct to residents.
The relief includes payments of $ 1,400 for most Americans earning less than $ 75,000 a year, $ 160 billion for vaccine distribution and development, $ 130 billion to support the reopening of kindergarten schools to grade 12 and extending the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) health grants as well as to the child. tax credit and other forms of relief.
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Senator Martin Heinrich called the bill “the beginning of the end of this pandemic,” and first-year congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernandez from Santa Fe, said it demonstrates “government works” .
Lawmakers spoke at a press conference with Senator Ben Ray Luján and the governor, all Democrats who pointedly contrasted the aid offered by the Biden administration and the White House under the former President Donald Trump.
They also called it a landmark anti-poverty bill that Heinrich said was the “biggest investment in an Indian country in American history,” including “well over” $ 1 billion for communities. tribals of New Mexico.
Lawmakers said they were still pulling together details of the total amount of aid given to the state, but estimated it would exceed $ 2.5 billion, including out-of-pocket payments, credit extension tax for families with children, direct grants to businesses and spending targeting. gaps in broadband service to address equity in education, rural health care and economic development. Heinrich said the ultimate economic impact would likely be even greater.
Lujan Grisham estimated the bill included $ 900 million in aid to New Mexico businesses.
Luján said another injustice was debt relief for black, Native American and Hispanic farmers and ranchers, a group he said “has not received their fair share of relief” from the administration. Trump.
The passage of the bill came on the eve of New Mexico’s first anniversary since the first cases of COVID-19 disease confirmed that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus had reached the state.
Noting this milestone, Luján remarked, “We need to build on this momentum to get more vaccines in the arms of New Mexicans and more relief dollars in their pockets. ”
Officials also touted it as a vital anti-poverty bill, with Lujan Grisham saying it could help lift up to 25 percent of New Mexico families out of poverty. The state has one of the highest child poverty rates in the country.
The bill adds $ 1,000 to the existing child tax credit, extending $ 3,600 for children under 6 and $ 3,000 for a child 6 to 17 years old.
Lujan Grisham said that with the bill, Congress “declared war on poverty once and for all by creating universal benefits, lifelines and lifelong assistance.”
Another Democrat representing New Mexico in the House, Representative Debra Haaland, did not attend the conference but said in a statement that the bill would help start “a fair recovery.”
Because the legislation disburses aid through so many channels, Leger Fernandez said New Mexicans would see an educational push to alert residents to all the help available and to help understand the changes that have been made to loans and Paycheck Protection Program Grants.
Herrell disagrees, voted against the bill
The only Republican in the New Mexico delegation, Representative Yvette Herrell, criticized the bill in a statement. She, along with all of her GOP colleagues in the House, voted against the bill, which was passed by 220-211.
It represents the 2nd Congressional District of New Mexico, encompassing all of southern New Mexico. She is serving her first term after her victory in the 2020 election.
Herrell complained in his statement that only 5% of the $ 130 billion earmarked for public schools would be available this year, while only 9% of the package directly targets efforts to fight the coronavirus. She described the public and local aid provided by the bill as a “rescue” for “states and cities that have imposed arbitrary and scientifically questionable blockades.”
“With the end of this difficult time in sight, we should focus on reopening our communities and getting our children back to school as soon as possible,” Herrell continued. “Unfortunately, this bill does nothing to speed up either.”