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Congressional delegation urges more help for small communities

Rep. Ben Ray Luján said he’s disappointed that funding for small communities struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic was not included in the last coronavirus aid package that provided additional relief for small businesses and the health care industry.

Under the CARES Act, cities with populations under 500,000 could not apply directly for money set aside for state and local governments to cover COVID-19 costs. In New Mexico, only Albuquerque can apply on its own.

Luján and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., have sponsored legislation that would provide $250 billion in stabilization funding across the country for smaller communities.

“We must do more to support local and state governments that are incurring significant costs responding to this pandemic,” Luján said.

He and fellow Democrat U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small told the Journal they believed relief for small towns and rural communities would be included in the next package. Torres Small said much-needed funding would be included for law enforcement and fire departments.

“Too many cities are suffering,” she said. “They need our help to keep functioning.”

“Flexible funding is absolutely essential,” Heinrich said during a Thursday news conference, maintaining that no community should be left behind as the nation recovers from the pandemic.

U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., said during a press briefing with Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller that she would like to see funding for high-speed internet “so everyone has access for school, economic opportunities and essential activities, such as replying to the Census or filing for unemployment.”

She also said she wanted to make sure families have access to relief regardless of immigration or tax status.

SECOND ROUND OF SMALL-BUSINESS AID: Heinrich said it was too early to tell if New Mexico’s small businesses still have the same kind of problems applying for aid through the Paycheck Protection Program as they did following passage of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act.

The CARES Act set aside almost $350 billion, but the program ran out of money just as many businesses in the state were applying. Another $310 billion was appropriated during the second round.

“A better job of policing needs to be done this time to make sure funding doesn’t go to places where it shouldn’t go,” the senator said. During the first round, larger corporations got money that was intended for smaller businesses.

“We need to find out where some of that money went,” Torres Small said. “Too many New Mexico businesses were crowded out in the first round.”

Heinrich said his office was working with businesses to find out if they were the right fit for the funding. If not, he said, his office was trying to help find other sources of relief.

MLG FEATURED IN TRUMP REELECTION AD: President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign has launched a digital ad featuring Democratic governors praising the president for his COVID-19 pandemic help.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is featured in a national news clip saying the state received ventilators it requested “in short order.”

Other Democratic governors featured in the ad included New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and California Gov. Gavin Newsome.

“In the fight against the coronavirus, the Trump administration is not just taking a whole of government approach, but a whole of America approach,” Trump campaign deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews said in a news release. “Even Democratic governors recognize President Trump’s tireless work to combat the coronavirus and his commitment to protecting all Americans.”

The ad will be featured on YouTube and Facebook in 17 states, including New Mexico.

Scott Turner: sturner@abqjournal.com

 

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