March 27, 2020

Udall, Heinrich: Coronavirus Bill Includes Direct Payments, Major Expansion of Unemployment Insurance for Working New Mexicans

Most New Mexicans to receive direct payment of $1,200 each, $500 per child, bringing over $1.8 billion to the state

As New Mexico unemployment filings spike due to pandemic and public health closures, state unemployment aid to be boosted by $600/week for four months 

Senators also secured provision in bill to enable workers at New Mexico’s national labs and contractors at other federal facilities to receive paid leave during public health emergency 

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) helped secure extensive workers relief provisions in the emergency coronavirus response bill, including direct payments to New Mexico families and an emergency four-month expansion of unemployment insurance (UI) worth an additional $600 per week.  The third congressional COVID-19 funding package that passed the Senate Wednesday, and the House passed today, also includes protections for furloughed workers that safeguard employer-provided health insurance.

The direct payments will provide the vast majority of New Mexicans with a one-time $1,200 payment, with married couples receiving $2,400, with an additional $500 for each child. The payment amounts start to phase down above income levels of $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for joint filers, and completely phase out above $100,000 and $200,000 respectively. One independent estimate of an earlier but similar version of the proposal estimated the average New Mexico family would receive over $1,800 and the state’s population as a whole would receive over $1.8 billion combined. The payments are based on 2019 or 2018 tax returns, and include those without income tax liability. If no return is available, the payments will be made through information in 2019 Social Security Benefit Statements. They are expected to be made as early as three weeks after final passage, according to the Department of the Treasury.

The expansion of unemployment assistance means more workers’ will see assistance that covers more of their lost wages, with many workers receiving 100% of their previous pay. The expansion also opens up the unemployment insurance program for the self-employed and part-time gig workers for the next four months, who would not otherwise have been eligible to apply for unemployment insurance. The bipartisan funding bill expands the maximum unemployment benefit by $600 per week to meet the unprecedented need from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensures that laid-off workers have more means to make ends meet during a time of public health closures. The agreement ensures that all workers are protected whether they work for businesses small, medium or large, along with those who are self-employed or work in the gig economy.

The provisions also allow workers to get unemployment insurance more quickly and allow furloughed workers to stay on as employees and receive health benefits while receiving UI so they are ready to quickly resume work with their employer and restart the American economy when the COVID-19 pandemic draws to a close.  

“Across the country and throughout New Mexico, workers have lost their jobs and are facing unprecedented economic hardship – almost overnight and through no fault of their own. The American people deserve our full support during this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, and help is on the way to New Mexico families and workers,” Udall said. “The bill passed this week puts workers and working families first—over corporate executive bonuses and no-strings-attached corporate bailouts. It puts money into the hands of all New Mexico families that need it. This funding is vital to our economic future because it will help families today with their bills while helping to alleviate some of the stresses of tomorrow—money in the bank today and a better chance at a job to return to in the future. I will continue to fight for all New Mexicans to ensure that working people have what they need to stay healthy while providing for themselves and their families.”

“Workers who have lost their jobs—even if only temporarily—are deeply worried about how they can support their families who depend on their paychecks,” Heinrich said. “Unemployment insurance will serve as an essential lifeline for them during this crisis. I’m proud that our negotiations secured a massive expansion of benefits and eligibility for the unemployment insurance program so that all workers in New Mexico impacted by this economic upheaval can receive the support they need. Democrats also fought to double the direct cash payments to working Americans. I will hold the administration accountable for delivering this much needed relief to New Mexico families as soon as possible so they can have the peace of mind they need to ride out this storm.”

The New Mexico senators also advocated for a provision that was included in the bill to enable paid leave for New Mexicans who work at the national labs or as federal contractors at other federal facilities in the state, if they cannot perform telework due to the nature of their duties. Without this provision, potentially thousands of New Mexicans working at the labs and other federal sites would be forced to drain their leave and eventually lose pay if they are unable to telework because their job cannot be performed remotely. 

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is the third ‘phase’ of coronavirus response passed by Congress.  That bill is expected to be passed by the House of Representatives on Friday and President Trump has committed to signing it into law as soon as possible thereafter. The bill also includes unprecedented direct support to small businesses to enable them to keep paying employees during this public health emergency and a major investment in the needs of hospitals and frontline health care workers who are faced with rapidly increasing numbers of COVID-19 patients.

Udall and Heinrich also voted for the second ‘phase,’ the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, to provide free nation-wide testing for COVID-19 and initial economic relief for the impacts of the pandemic and the associated public health response.  In addition, Udall and Heinrich voted for the first measure – an $8.3 billion supplemental appropriations bill, to provide the first wave of support for the country’s public health infrastructure and social safety net programs.