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Udall: State to receive up to $1.25B through $2T coronavirus legislation

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Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico is expected to receive up to $1.25 billion for state and local governments to fight the coronavirus through a $2 trillion congressional stimulus package, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall said in a floor speech Wednesday ahead of a Senate vote on the legislation.

He called the legislation a “good compromise” that included changes he and fellow New Mexico Democrat Martin Heinrich backed to the original plan pushed by Senate Republicans.

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The state’s senior senator said changes included an extra month of unemployment insurance for workers laid off by the outbreak, additional funding for small business loans, more money for health care and funding for tribal governments.

Udall cited statistics in New Mexico that saw unemployment claims rise from 800 in the week of March 9 to 11,000 last week. “And now we are receiving 7,000 per day,” he said.

“Many workers will receive their full pay under this expansion,” Udall said.

But that is where the legislation hit a late snag before the vote. Four Republican senators discovered language that indicated some workers could receive more pay while they were laid off than when they were working. They were trying to solve the problem with an amendment.

Udall touted small business relief in the bill, which he said includes loans of up to $10 million that can be forgiven and turned into grants if employees are kept on the payroll.

“This relief will go through the Small Business Administration and be available to any business or nonprofit with under 500 employees,” he said.

He also backed an increase of $55 billion for hospital and health care worker resources. He said the total public health investment in the bill is now $150 billion.

He said the package would establish a $150 billion relief fund for state, local and tribal governments to help cover costs of fighting this virus. That is where New Mexico could claim up to $1.25 billion, he said.

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Udall said the legislation also includes provisions for tribes and urban Indian health programs that were originally excluded from the Senate bill.

The legislation will establish an $8 billion Tribal Government Relief fund to ensure Indian tribes have direct “one stop” access to COVID-19 resources for economic recovery and continuation of essential government services based on local needs, Udall’s office said.

The agreement also contains more than $2 billion in emergency supplemental funding for Indian tribes, urban Indian health programs and Native communities.

Udall and Heinrich opposed the original bill because they claimed lack of transparency and oversight in the $500 billion relief funding for industries and large corporations.

Udall said the negotiated package has transparency and oversight provisions.