June 18, 2020

Legislators push to get bill heard on rent relief, thousands will be affected

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New Mexico state Representatives Andrea Romero and Angelica Rubio are proposing a $77 million bill to provide rent relief through the end of the year.

Romero, D-Santa Fe, and Rubio, D-Las Cruces, held an online town hall Wednesday evening to discuss the proposed bill, which they said they expect to file Thursday morning at the start of the special session. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham did not announce that rent relief would be on the call for the special session when announcing her priorities for the special session.

Lujan Grisham’s press secretary Nora Meyers Sackett said through email late Wednesday that “legislators may file additional proposals such as (rent relief fund) and the legislative process will either see those through or not.​”

But Rubio said that she has been hearing this week that Lujan Grisham would not put something on her call that wasn’t likely to “succeed,” and that legislators would only be able to debate the bills on Lujan Grisham’s call.

Romero outlined the three main points of what will be on the bill. The first is a state moratorium on evictions. The New Mexico Supreme Court has placed a stay on evictions because of the pandemic but that will be lifted when Lujan Grisham lifts the public health emergency.

Related: A single mom in Albuquerque faces homelessness without rent relief

The $77 million in the proposed bill would protect renters from July through December. Romero said renters will be likely to most need the money in September because the additional $600 a week the federal government is providing to workers through unemployment insurance will cease at the end of July.

Rubio and Romero also want what they called an antiquated rent control law to be repealed. That would enable local governments more ability to help renters in their own counties and municipalities, Romero said.

Maria Griego, economic equity director for the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, said during the town hall that New Mexico is leading the nation on homelessness and chronic homelessness. She said that providing rent relief for renters will also help landlords who own small properties and count on renters’ ability to pay their rent.

Romero said the majority of those who rent live in rural parts of the state. She said as many as 20,000 renters could be seeking relief in September.

“Thousands of families and children…will be further traumatized by losing shelter,” Rubio said.