In the absence of congressional action to provide more economic assistance to people struggling during the pandemic, state and local governments are taking matters into their own hands and making direct payments to their constituents.
Although the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) law sent economic stimulus packages to people across the country, it has been eight months since it was passed and the latest bipartisan package does not include direct payments. However, certain people in New Mexico and Colorado, and possibly Houston, will receive another payment, although Congress has not passed a new law with a check provision.
Last Friday, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an aid package into a bill that provides for a one-time payment of $1,200 to more than 100,000 New Mexicans who have registered unemployed. The $330 million measure received overwhelming cross-party support in both chambers of the legislature, and payments will be made in the “coming weeks,” according to Lujan Grisham.
“The big thing people need to know is that if they are dependent on unemployment benefits, they don’t have to do anything extra to get that money. As long as you certify your regular entitlement this week or next week, you should be entitled to the money,” New Mexico Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill McCamley told KOAT.
New Mexico’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate was 8.1 percent in October, up from 4.8 percent at the same time in 2019, about one point higher than the national unemployment rate in October, which was 6.9 percent. The State Department of Workforce Solutions said that most job losses were in the private sector, with the leisure and hospitality industries being hit hardest.
About 1,500 people in New Mexico have seen their unemployment benefits expire, but they remain eligible for $1,200, McCamley told KOAT. The Department of Workforce Solutions will contact these people to inform them about the process for claiming their payment.
Colorado is also in the process of distributing one-time payments, albeit for a much smaller amount: $375. In late October, Governor Jared Polis issued an executive order releasing more than $263 million from the state’s general fund to make payments to those who received at least one weekly unemployment benefit from mid-March to the end of October.
“Washington, D.C. has failed to provide additional direct cash benefits to hard-working Coloradians and to further stimulate the economy,” Polis said in a statement. “So Colorado is courageously doing its part to help ourselves.
Despite Democratic and Republican support for another round of stimulus programs, partisan divisions have held up another federal aid package for months. Democrats are largely pushing for a more comprehensive package, while Republicans expect more limited and targeted aid. On Tuesday, a group of lawmakers unveiled a bipartisan plan that includes nationwide unemployment insurance, aid for small businesses and aid for the transportation industry, which has been particularly hard hit. The aid would also go to state and local governments.
The plan did not include a further round of economic stimulus controls, but lawmakers said it would provide necessary relief, particularly with regard to unemployment benefits, which are due to expire at the end of the year.
The city suggested that some Houston residents could receive a second payment of $1,200. Up to 23,750 people would receive the payment to help them with household expenses such as rent, food, childcare and transportation. The eligibility requirements have not yet been published and the measure is subject to approval by Houston City Council.
The Governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz, is also proposing to give some residents another round of audits of the grant. On November 24, he proposed an aid package that includes a one-time payment of $500 to “families in difficulty. In order for these payments to flow into people’s pockets, the package needs the approval of state legislators, and Walz said he would work with Democrats and Republicans to move forward with the “much-needed proposal.
“I am committed to turning over every stone to find ways to help our businesses survive, our workers be supported and our families put food on the table,” Walz said.
Teddy Tschann, a spokesman for Walz, told Washington Newsday that the governor was “confident” that the Minnesota legislature would pass a relief package. But he said it was “crucial” for Congress to do its part to ease the burden, since “the states’ options are limited and we can only go so far.