We must continue fighting
Before I update you on my latest work, I want to offer my condolences to the friends and family of the first New Mexican we know to have died from COVID-19. We must continue fighting this disease on all fronts so less families in our state will lose their loved ones. That means increasing testing and transparency, encouraging all New Mexicans to keep following Governor Lujan Grisham's stay-at-home instruction, and equipping our hospitals and health care workers on the frontlines with the tools they need to keep everyone healthy and safe.
Late last night, I voted for a major bipartisan agreement that will provide over $2 trillion for emergency medical supplies, public health resources, and desperately needed economic relief for American workers and families. This legislation follows two previous emergency funding measures Congress passed earlier in the month to provide essential medical resources to the public health response and shore up economic relief programs like Medicaid, paid sick leave, food assistance, and unemployment insurance.
Last week, we saw more New Mexicans apply for unemployment than in any single week during the Great Recession. That is only one sign of how much workers and businesses in our state are struggling. Small business owners all across New Mexico are temporarily closing their doors and wondering if they will be able to reopen. Workers who have lost their jobs--even if only temporarily--are worried about how they can support their families who depend on their paychecks. Our schools, our non-profits, and our food banks are stepping up to make sure no New Mexican goes hungry. But they are taking on massive costs to do so.
Like all compromises in Congress, the bill the Senate passed last night is not perfect. However, all of the substantive negotiations brought us to a place where we can deliver the help that New Mexicans are demanding. I can say now that help is on the way. Democrats were also able to secure critical provisions that will assure there is accountability and oversight on how these taxpayer dollars are allocated and also make sure resources will be steered towards those who really need it.
The most urgent measures in this legislation are what is being called a Marshall Plan for our hospitals and health care system. This crisis has revealed in stark relief how much we need to reinvest in our hospitals and health care system to ensure that everyone in America--whether they live in rural New Mexico or in New York City--has access to lifesaving medical care. The funding we approved will help our hospitals secure supplies they desperately need during this emergency such as ventilators and personal protective equipment. It will also provide key funding support to COVID-19 response at community health centers, the VA, and the Indian Health Service.
State, local, and tribal governments have been shouldering the costs of propping up local health care and economic relief systems as they waited for relief from the federal government. The package includes $150 billion to reimburse these costs. After Republicans initially failed to include tribes, Democrats secured $8 billion to go specifically to tribal governments who have lost much of their revenue from closed tribal enterprises and face unique public health challenges.
We also secured a massive expansion of the unemployment insurance program, which will be an essential lifeline for millions of workers during this crisis. The legislation increases the maximum unemployment benefit by $600 per week over the state's baseline and ensures that laid-off workers, on average, will receive their full pay for four months. We expanded access to unemployment insurance to part-time, self-employed, and gig economy workers who have also seen their paychecks shrink or disappear entirely. We are also providing more than $350 billion of additional funds for loans and grants to help small businesses pay the salaries of their employees and successfully reopen after this is all over.
Democrats doubled the cash payments to working Americans from $600 to $1,200. An additional $500 cash payment is available for each child in a household. The full payment will be available for individuals making up to $75,000 for individuals and up to $150,000 for married couples. I'm hopeful that these payments, which should make it to households within weeks, will give some peace of mind to so many families in New Mexico who have been worried about how they were going to ride out this storm.
Finally, I also fought to include $400 million for states to prepare elections systems for expanded vote-by-mail, online voter registration, and increased safety for in-person voting. Especially during a presidential election year, Americans need complete certainty that their fundamental right to vote will not be compromised. They should never fear that exercising that right will put them in danger.
Once this bill becomes law, the Trump Administration will have to work with states, tribes, and local partners to implement it. How well we can execute delivering both the medical and economic resources over the next days and weeks will determine how well we can recover from this pandemic. I promise that I will hold them accountable every step of the way.
United States Senator