AUDIO: Heinrich Provides Update On COVID-19 Response, Legislative Efforts

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) today held a teleconference with New Mexico-based reporters to discuss the latest on efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the call, Senator Heinrich announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for Abbott's molecular test for COVID-19, which will soon supply New Mexico with the resources needed to significantly increase our current testing capacity.

A recording of Senator Heinrich’s remarks can be found HERE.

Senator Heinrich's remarks as prepared for delivery are below: 

Thanks, everyone, for joining me today.

I would like to take a brief moment just to thank all of the reporters, editors, and news directors on this call for the work you have been doing around the clock to make sure New Mexicans are receiving accurate and up-to-date information during this unprecedented public health crisis.

What you are doing is making a real difference in keeping all of our communities informed at a time when we really need it.

Please stay engaged with my team and always look to us as a trusted resource.

I’d like to start by setting the stage for what this has looked like to me.

For those of us who experienced the last recession in 2008-2009, this really feels like a convergence of all that economic disruption, with a public health crisis the likes of which none of us have ever experienced, except maybe hearing about it from our parents and grandparents or reading about it in history books.

I truly believe that this is the challenge that our generation will be measured against.

Despite the frankly inconsistent messages and behavior in the White House over recent weeks and months, I have remained laser focused on doing everything in my power to demand a coordinated federal response and work alongside leaders in New Mexico to prepare our state to confront this unprecedented public health crisis and the days ahead.

I am tremendously proud of Governor Lujan Grisham and her administration for all they have done to enact proactive measures in our state.

And I am grateful to all of the health care workers, our first responders, and many others, who are on the frontlines of keeping our families safe and healthy during such a trying time.

I strongly believe that our first, second, and third priority need to be bringing all of our resources to bear in a coordinated effort to address the public health challenges at hand.

We will not be able to stop the economic downturn until we have gotten a handle on the spread of the coronavirus.

That’s why I have been hard at work fighting to secure the resources and equipment we need for an effective and lifesaving public health response in our state.

That started with the first 8 billion dollar emergency funding package we passed earlier this month in Congress that delivered 6 million dollars directly to those working on New Mexico’s public health response.

I’ve also spoken directly with Vice President Mike Pence, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, and Ambassador Debbie Birx about the urgent need to deliver supplies to expand COVID-19 testing in New Mexico.

Vice President Pence, Commissioner Hahn and Ambassador Birx all agreed to work with us to increase testing capacity in New Mexico to identify cases and help slow the spread of COVID-19.

I’m pleased to announce this morning that we received confirmation that the FDA granted an Emergency Use Authorization to Abbott Laboratories, which will soon be able to supply New Mexico enough of the resources needed to significantly increase our current testing capacity.

I am hopeful that we will be able to increase it even beyond that.

The reality is that we have the equipment to meet our testing needs right here in New Mexico. TriCore in Albuquerque is a world class lab.

They just need the supplies to conduct tests.

In addition to working on our testing capabilities, I’ve been proud to join the delegation in pushing for an increase in Personal Protection Equipment—or PPEs—for our health care providers.

I will keep pushing to secure New Mexico’s PPE allotment from the national stockpile, and holding the Trump Administration accountable in increasing manufacturing of new PPEs.

I am also trying to help New Mexicans decipher all of the information they are seeing.

So much of that is cutting through all the cross-currents and connecting people to trusted and science-based sources of information.

I’ve found that most people want to do the right thing.

They need clear directions and the right information. 

That’s why I created a Coronavirus Resources Center on my website.

It’s my hope that this can work as a clearinghouse of all the helpful resources our state has released and science-based information directly from the Centers for Disease Control and the New Mexico Department of Health.

My office is also on the ground working around the clock with local, tribal, and state officials.

We are deeply aware of how much this public health crisis has upended small business owners, workers, and schools all across New Mexico.

We absolutely need to look out for the small businesses and workers who are under immense pressure right now.

Many small businesses in New Mexico are in danger of closing in a matter of days or weeks if we don’t act immediately to provide them with relief.

Whole sectors of our economy, including our tourism and hospitality industries, have been completely upended.

Many business owners and their employees know that their families can’t afford for them to miss a paycheck or a whole month of revenue.

That’s why we need to act with real urgency to pass both the emergency medical and immediate economic relief measures that they are counting on.

The Senate put partisan politics aside yesterday to pass the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that passed in the House last week.

This legislation will provide the necessary resources to rapidly expand free COVID-19 testing for those who need it, an essential step toward getting a better handle on the spread of the virus.

It provides funding to ensure meals are provided to seniors and those in need, including children who lost access to school meals due to closures.

The bill will also ensure impacted workers and their families can access paid leave and unemployment insurance.

For our small businesses, I also helped secure disaster declarations for New Mexico from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

That means that SBA can now offer low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus.

These loans can serve as a critical lifeline.

In addition to this much needed federal assistance, I’m relieved that many of our utilities and co-ops in New Mexico are already looking out for impacted families by putting a temporary hold on non-payment disconnects and late fees.

That is the right thing to do.

I’m also urging banks and credit unions in our state to put emergency holds on enforcement of student loan payments, small business loan payments, and mortgage payments.

I was pleased to see yesterday that the Department of Housing and Urban Development is suspending foreclosures on Federal Housing Administration insured mortgages for the next 60 days.

I’m asking residential landlords to halt all non-criminal evictions.

Banks and landlords should temporarily halt the enforcement of foreclosures and evictions and work with impacted parties to suspend any fees or late-payment penalties.

When so many New Mexico families are already frightened about how they will be able to stay healthy and make ends meet, the last thing they should have to worry about is whether they can keep a roof over their heads.

But we also need to be thinking much, much bigger.

As the Senate debates and negotiates a larger stimulus bill, I want to be sure we are putting the interests of New Mexico’s small businesses, workers, and their families first.

And I want to make sure we don’t forget about our tribal nations or our rural communities.

I have no doubt that larger industries and corporations like the airlines, major hotel chains, and cruise lines will have plenty of help getting back on their feet.

I am fighting to ensure that Washington doesn’t leave behind the New Mexico families who don’t have high-paid lobbyists.

We need to have the backs of the food service workers, the hospitality workers who rely on New Mexico’s tourism industry, and all of the workers whose jobs and lives have been thrown into total disarray and uncertainty.

They must all be made whole when this is said and done.

I also want to make sure that in a larger economic stimulus, we are investing in the greatest long-term good for our economy.

We’ve got lessons that we learned from the response to the financial crisis a decade ago.

We should make sure we get the economic measures right so families in New Mexico who need help actually get it.

Finally, I want to tell the New Mexicans stuck abroad that we are pushing this Administration and Secretary Pompeo to make sure you can get home.

My team has been working to connect with New Mexicans where ever they are in the world. We are connecting them to their nearest Embassy and helping them work with airlines.

I will keep doing everything we can to get New Mexicans home.

Now, before I turn it over for questions, I want to just say once again how seriously I am taking this.

There is so much at stake.

And New Mexicans are understandably afraid and uncertain about where we go from here.

We are all in this together.

And we need to work together to do the right thing for our friends, our families, and our neighbors.

We will get through this.

Thank you.