Washington, D.C. – Mar. 27, Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) voted for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act – the third relief package passed by Congress to address the COVID-19 epidemic and support the American worker.
“Individuals across the United States are working together to uplift their communities and address this unprecedented public health emergency. I am grateful for the strong leadership that brought forward a bill that invests in our health care infrastructure, supports workers and small businesses, and puts families first,” said Luján. “This effort builds on previous legislation passed by Congress, and I will continue fighting to protect the health and economic security of all American families. We will face this crisis together, and we must continue doing our part to stop the spread of this virus.”
America is facing a grave health emergency with a serious impact on our economy. Congressman Luján knows that working Americans are relying on their elected leaders to provide immediate relief to families, health care workers, states, and small businesses, and that work must continue.
In this legislation, Congressman Luján strongly advocated for New Mexican communities, ensuring that the state has the support it needs to keep our families healthy and reestablish economic security.
Below are some of the initiatives that Congressman Luján personally advocated for in the legislation:
- Increasing the availability of personal protective equipment, including $16 billion for the Strategic National Stockpile to procure pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment, and other medical supplies.
- Expanding eligibility for Unemployment Insurance benefits to cover self-employed individuals and independent contractors.
- Expanding access to broadband in underserved areas, including $100 million for the ReConnect program for households in rural areas and $25 million to support the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program.
- $100 million for the Department of Energy National Labs, including equipment, enabling technologies, and personnel, to support COVID-19 research and providing authority to the Department of Energy to protect the employment status of its workforce and retain and pay contractors and subcontractors.
- $900 million to help lower-income households heat and cool their homes through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, of which New Mexico is slated to receive $8.2 million.
- Support for Tribes, including $1.032 billion for the Indian Health Service to respond to coronavirus and $8 billion in assistance for Tribal governments through the Coronavirus Relief Fund.
- Relief for small businesses, including $349 billion for forgivable loans to small businesses to pay their employees and keep them on the payroll; $17 billion for debt relief for current and new SBA borrowers; and $10 billion in immediate disaster grants.
- $3.5 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant. New Mexico will receive $29 million under this emergency appropriation.
- $5 billion for the Community Development Block Grant program to enable nearly 1,240 states, counties, and cities to rapidly respond to COVID-19 and the economic and housing impacts caused by it, including the expansion of community health facilities, child care centers, food banks, and senior services.
Below are additional initiatives included in this legislation that will benefit New Mexicans:
- A $150 billion State and Local Coronavirus Relief Fund to provide states and localities additional resources to cope with the coronavirus pandemic. It is estimated that New Mexico will receive $1.250 billion in desperately needed funding to safeguard our state’s residents.
- $260 billion to improve unemployment benefits, including providing an additional $600 per week for the next four months, providing an additional 13 weeks of federally funded benefits, and expanding eligibility to include workers in the gig economy and self-employed workers, even if they have previously exhausted regular unemployment benefits.
- Immediate, direct cash payments to lower-and middle-income Americans of $1,200 for each adult and $500 for each child, beginning to phase out at an annual income of $75,000 for an individual and $150,000 for a household. These payments will provide individuals with the cash they need right now to survive with much of the economy currently shut down.
- $200 billion for hospitals, health systems, and health research, including expanding funding for the personal protective equipment desperately needed by our health care workers, including n95 masks, gowns, and gloves.
- $2 billion for HUD Emergency Solution Grants designed to address the impact of the coronavirus among individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and to support additional homeless assistance, prevention, and eviction prevention assistance. New Mexico will receive $11 million from this fund.
- $400 million for Election Assistance Grants for states to help prepare for the 2020 elections. Coronavirus is already resulting in the postponement of some primaries and this funding can help states make voting safer for individuals. Funding can be used, for example, to increase the ability to vote by mail, expand early voting, and expand online registration. New Mexico will receive $3.8 million to defend our elections.