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Torres Small breaks ranks with ‘no’ vote on relief bill

U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small broke ranks with her New Mexico Democratic colleagues Deb Haaland and Ben Ray Luján and voted against the $3 trillion HEROES Act – the new coronavirus relief bill that passed the House on Friday night.

“I will continue to fight for direct funding for states, local communities, and tribal governments, as well as hazard pay for our essential workers on the front lines. But over $1 trillion of this bill was spent elsewhere,” Torres Small said in a statement. “Hard times call for strong priorities, and Congress should put aside partisan politics to rebuild through smart infrastructure investments.”

Haaland supported the bill, saying in a news release that the legislation included $250 billion in stabilization funds for cities and towns and $20 billion for tribes.

“Heroes come in all forms – they’re hospital workers, grocery clerks, teachers, letter carriers and people who stay home to take care of their elders and protect their communities. The HEROES Act provides economic stability so we can begin the long road to economic recovery,” she said before the vote.

Luján said in a statement that the bill would “provide urgent support for workers, small businesses and nonprofits, and the tens of millions of Americans who have lost their jobs.”

In its current form, the bill is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.

“HEROES” stands for “Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act.”

MORE DAIRY AID? Torres Small is seeking the removal of a $125,000 cap per commodity placed by the Trump administration from a provision in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act meant to help agricultural producers, including dairy farmers.

The funding comes from the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which includes $16 billion in direct payments to agricultural producers to offset losses caused by the pandemic. It also has a cap of $250,000 if the farmer or operation has multiple commodities.

The 2nd Congressional District representative said it limits aid to dairy farmers, because most of them produce only one commodity.

She said the aid is enough for small dairy farms in Vermont or other New England states, “but it is not enough for large dairy operations in my district.”

“It does not cover the labor costs,” she said in a phone interview with the Journal. “It does not cover operational expenses.”

Torres Small, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, raised the issue during a roundtable discussion with state agriculture producers and House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn.

NO ICE RESPONSE: When reports that an employee and migrant tested positive for COVID-19 early last month at the Otero County Processing Center, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Reps. Haaland, Luján and Torres Small sent a letter on April 10 to Acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Matthew Albence voicing concerns that ICE detention centers were not properly prepared to manage the coronavirus outbreak.

Spokespersons in Heinrich’s and Udall’s offices told the Journal on Thursday that Albence did not respond to the letter. And as of Saturday, the state’s Department of Health reported there were 42 coronavirus cases at the Otero facility.

Scott Turner: sturner@abqjournal.com

 

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