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After White House meeting, governor sees help on way to NM

President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with a bipartisan group of mayors and governors to discuss a coronavirus relief package, in the Oval Office of the White House on Friday. From left, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., Vice President Kamala Harris, Biden, and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham expressed optimism about New Mexico receiving additional federal relief aid and increased COVID-19 vaccine shipments after meeting Friday at the White House with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

The meeting, which was also attended by a small group of governors and mayors, marked Lujan Grisham’s first trip out of New Mexico since the pandemic hit the state in March 2020.

In a telephone interview, the governor said New Mexico would get roughly $2 billion in financial aid – for health care, tribal investments and other programs – under the American Rescue Plan proposed by the Biden administration that would provide a total of $350 billion in direct aid for states and local governments.

“This is a game-changer for us and I made that clear to the president and vice president,” Lujan Grisham told the Journal.

She also said vaccines were discussed during the White House meeting and that she requested more federal assistance in distributing and administering received vaccine shipments.

“I’m feeling very good about the ongoing focus on the pandemic and vaccines,” Lujan Grisham said.

New Mexico has ranked among the top states in the nation for the percentage of coronavirus vaccine doses received that have been administered, though some state residents have voiced frustration with the pace of the vaccine rollout.

As of Friday, the state had administered 394,720 doses out of 429,950 received – or nearly 92%.

But some New Mexicans have received two doses of the vaccine, as is required with the Pfizer vaccine, meaning 276,965 residents – or about 13% of the state’s total population – have gotten their first shot, according to state Department of Health data.

Meanwhile, Lujan Grisham said she also spoke Friday with top White House staffers, but not directly to Biden and Harris, about the U.S. Air Force’s decision to locate the new U.S. Space Command headquarters in Huntsville, Alabama, over five other cities, including Albuquerque.

The governor said the site location was a “political decision” made during the final days of former President Donald Trump’s administration, echoing a claim made by Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and other officials.

The governor, who was considered for a Cabinet position in the Biden administration, was recently elected as chairwoman of the Democratic Governors Association.

She was scheduled to travel back to New Mexico on Friday.


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