WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) today held a teleconference with New Mexico-based reporters to answer questions and discuss the latest on efforts to assist New Mexicans impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A recording of Senator Heinrich’s remarks can be found HERE.
Senator Heinrich's as prepared for delivery are below:
Thank you for calling in today and joining me to discuss our ongoing efforts during this pandemic.
It’s been nearly a month since the first New Mexicans tested positive for the coronavirus.
The data we are seeing shows that communities across our state are headed into the thick of this public health crisis right now.
I cannot stress enough how important the role each of us plays in literally saving the lives of our fellow New Mexicans.
We must all continue to remain in our homes or apartments except for only those outings that are absolutely necessary for our health, safety, and welfare.
The physical distancing we’ve done as a state is already making a difference and bending our curve.
It is critical that we continue these efforts in order to minimize the spread of the coronavirus in our state.
Our health care providers are tirelessly working to care for New Mexicans already suffering from COVID-19.
When we stay at home, we make sure those health care providers have the resources they need to treat every New Mexican hospitalized with this virus with the care they deserve.
I’ll put it simply and bluntly: the behavior of all of us today will determine how many people will die tomorrow.
That is what we are facing.
I look forward to answering your questions.
But first I’d like to provide you all with a few updates on my work over this last week.
We continue to be working around the clock to secure emergency medical supplies, public health resources, and desperately needed economic relief for small businesses and families across our state.
How well we can deliver the medical and economic resources included in the $2 trillion CARES Act that Congress passed last month relies almost entirely on the Trump administration.
I am doing everything in my power to hold them accountable every step of the way for delivering this aid as efficiently and effectively as humanly possible.
I am deeply aware of how much this public health crisis has wreaked havoc on employers and their workers across every industry and in every corner of our state.
Whole sectors of our economy, including our tourism and hospitality industries, have been completely upended.
It is impossible to overstate how much the cancellation of major events like the Spanish Market, Indian Market, and the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe will devastate artists and small businesses.
And that is just one example.
This is absolutely the right thing to do to protect the health of our neighbors and friends.
But we need to make sure all of those who are shutting down their businesses for this righteous cause are made whole.
That’s why I fought so hard to secure major provisions in the CARES Act to provide relief to small businesses and non-profits hurt by the coronavirus pandemic and its required public health responses.
The new law includes $377 billion in small business aid - including up to $10 million in loans from the Payment Protection Program – or PPP –for small businesses and nonprofits with up to 500 employees.
These loans can be converted to grants if employers maintain their previous payroll through December 31, 2020.
But I will be the first to say that this aid is not reaching New Mexicans quickly enough.
While many small businesses have applied for assistance in New Mexico, I’m not aware of a single dollar that has gone to our state yet.
That’s infuriating and there’s absolutely no excuse for it.
The CARES Act also authorized the Treasury Department to designate many more financial institutions as new SBA eligible lenders.
The PPP loan program’s success rests on this expansion of SBA’s lending network.
The Trump administration needed to implement these programs rapidly and, frankly, too long has already passed without a word.
I will keep pushing the Administration to urgently and efficiently expand its lending network.
People’s livelihoods are on the line.
In addition to these economic programs, we also need President Trump to provide a coordinated national plan for getting states and local governments the medical devices and equipment they desperately need.
These are certainly unprecedented times.
They call for unprecedented action, not excuses or foot-dragging.
From day one of this crisis, I said that we needed to bring all of our resources to bear in a coordinated effort to address the public health challenges at hand.
That includes increasing testing capacity – so it become essentially universal.
That includes the rapid deployment of much-needed medical supplies like ventilators.
And it includes getting our health care workers the personal protective equipment they need to stay healthy while they fight on the front lines of this pandemic.
We will not be able to stop the economic downturn until we have gotten a handle on the spread of the coronavirus.
Still, we have seen anything but a coordinated federal response.
We don’t have enough PPE’s.
We don’t have enough ventilators.
And we have shortages of drugs even before they are tested for treatment.
While all of this is happening, our health care professionals keep showing up and caring for our community.
They are the ones carrying the heaviest burden at the moment.
I am so incredibly grateful and moved by these health care professionals – some brand new to the practice, some coming out of retirement to help, and so many in between.
That’s one of many reasons I have been especially hard at work fighting to secure the resources and equipment we need for an effective and lifesaving public health response in our state.
We are looking for capacity anywhere we can find it – especially if it’s local and even if it’s not.
Last week, our health care providers told us they needed surgical masks. We spent days searching and, this past weekend, were able to identify new source of these and other much needed PPEs.
Those are now en route to the state under the coordination of General Nava.
Our work isn’t stopping with finding supplies either.
We are helping to find innovative solutions and create new supply chains, too.
Just this week, in collaboration with the Air Force Research Lab in Albuquerque, the State of New Mexico, and several other partners, a new website was launched to connect health care providers with solutions and capabilities from across New Mexico.
The goal of the new site is to help consolidate and coordinate: Manufacturers and suppliers capable of producing medical supplies such as face shields, gowns, ventilators, and masks; Companies and individuals looking to donate these supplies; and health care providers in need of these supplies.
The URL for this new website is: nmcovid19.org
Also in the area of finding innovative solutions, I’d like to share a story that begins in New Mexico State University Chancellor Dan Arvizu’s living room.
Recently, my colleague from Hawaii connected me with a group of students in his state who were 3D printing face shield for medical providers.
I was able to get the 3D design specs, and pitched the idea of printing them to Chancellor Arvizu.
He took the idea and ran with it.
He and his son started by successfully printing the shields from their living room from their home 3D printer.
Since then, NMSU just reported to our office that they’ve printed the shields and already made a delivery to both Las Cruces hospitals.
During last week’s call, I emphasized how much our rural communities need to be prepared for and supported in this crisis.
That is why I am calling for future relief legislation to include stabilization funding geared specifically towards localities with populations under 500,000.
Small and rural communities in New Mexico either will face or are already facing enormous economic burdens and costs in an effort to respond to the pandemic.
It is crucial that we provide the same direct emergency assurances to smaller towns, counties, and cities and grant them the same stability that we are providing our larger metropolitan areas.
I am urging my congressional colleagues to expand upon the Coronavirus Relief Fund that we secured in the CARES Act and open up this critical funding so that no community is left behind, especially in New Mexico.
We are also doing everything possible to keep our rural hospitals afloat during this crisis.
The vast majority of rural hospitals have ceased performing elective procedures and seeing non-urgent patients during the pandemic, which has significantly reduced revenue and threatens their financial viability.
I’d like to provide a positive development related to the Gila Regional Medical Center in southwestern New Mexico.
After a significant collaborative effort with Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small, we received confirmation that Gila Regional Medical Center will receive an accelerated advance Medicare payment of $6.8 million.
This loan, which is part of the $100 billion grant program included in the CARES Act, is critical to keeping Gila Regional’s doors open as the communities it serves in Grant, Luna, Hidalgo, and Catron Counties deal with the impacts of the coronavirus.
It will allow the hospital to continue its operations and keep this essential health system for this rural region of our state functional.
The funding is expected to be delivered by the end of the week.
I will keep doing everything I can to deliver the resources and solutions New Mexicans need in the challenging days and weeks ahead.