November 20, 2020

Gov. Lujan Grisham announces special session date, plans on a $300 million relief package

The New Mexico State Capitol, or Roundhouse Wikicommons.

During a weekly news conference with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham about COVID-19, the governor covered the usual topics and encouraged people to stay home and wear masks. 

But likely the biggest news was that Lujan Grisham has a date planned for a special legislative session. 

“I’m happy to announce right now that the special session I will call, will be called for this coming Tuesday right before Thanksgiving,” Lujan Grisham said. “We’ve spent the last several days working with legislators, both chambers, both sides of the aisle, to work on those details.”

Lujan Grisham’s office announced last week that she planned on calling on legislators to meet and arrange for extra financial support for New Mexicans. 

During this week’s news conference, Lujan Grisham said she wants to see $300 million from the New Mexico CARES Act go to unemployment benefits, housing grants and grants for small businesses that have been impacted by the public health order. 

“We want to get this relief out to New Mexicans. They need unemployment, they need housing assistance and businesses need grants,” Lujan Grisham said. That gives us a day to get the processes well underway on that Wednesday before Thanksgiving so that the Monday when we get back we’re pushing money out the door. It’s critical that we do that.”

As Thanksgiving approaches, New Mexico is also seeing a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases and related deaths. By Thursday the state was four days into what Lujan Grisham referred to as a “reset” or a two-week period of a stay-at-home order and all non-essential businesses closed. Lujan Grisham clarified during the news conference that essential businesses are places like hardware and grocery stores. 

Lujan Grisham and New Mexico Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase spent the majority of their time focusing on the severity of New Mexico’s cases. Lujan Grisham said early on in the pandemic, it took a little under days to reach 10,000 cases. Now, she said, it took only seven days to get to the most recent 10,000 cases. 

Scrase also confirmed that an old Albuquerque hospital building will be utilized to help ease the pressure of hospitals as COVID-19 cases are regularly in the thousands on a daily basis. 

The old hospital building in Albuquerque won’t be a full hospital, Scrase said. Instead it will serve as a way for patients to transition from medical care to their respective home. 

“It won’t be like a freestanding hospital,” Scrase said. One of the primary uses will be just to transfer people from hospitals, a little bit earlier than they might have otherwise gone home, to the Gibson facility for the remainder of their stay.”

The two also urged New Mexicans to stay home and not travel during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. 

“The best defense against the virus is to stay home, stay isolated,” Lujan Grisham said. “If you have to go out, distance, wear a mask. The virus is everywhere. It’s looking for an opportunity to spread with you.”

Scrase also said he’s received questions about the effectiveness of wearing masks, considering the number of cases around the state continue to dramatically increase. Scrase said since there’s been a mask mandate for about eight months and COVID-19 still seems to be aggressively spreading, people tend to question the efficacy of the public health orders and wearing masks. But he said it is likely due to people not following those health orders. 

“The public health orders themselves don’t reduce the number of cases,” Scrase said. “It’s New Mexicans complying with public health orders and doing what they say.”