New Mexico awaits $1.75B in federal pandemic relief

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s state government will receive $1.75 billion in pandemic relief from the federal government under the economic recovery plan from the Biden administration and Congress, the U.S. Treasury Department announced on Monday.

The relief funds can be delivered to New Mexico on a faster schedule that most states to counteract lingering unemployment.

The Treasury also provided new detailed guidance on how states and local governments can spend the relief.

Specifically, the guidance allows states to replenish unemployment trust funds to pre-pandemic levels. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham had no immediate comment on the guidance or her administrations plans for spending the money.

She and the Democrat-led Legislature both have signaled an interest in using a large portion of relief funds to rebuild the state’s unemployment fund. That would limit future increases in payroll taxes that underwrite unemployment insurance for the private sector.

At the same time, Lujan Grisham and the legislative leaders are locked in a standoff over which branch of government has authority over spending federal aid from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Lujan Grisham in April vetoed the Legislature’s plan to devote $600 million to the state’s unemployment fund, $200 million to roads, $100 million to a college scholarship program and more.

The Democratic governor said in her veto message that “the Legislature lacks the authority” to tell her how to use the money and that the state should wait for federal guidance.