As the city of Santa Fe begins to grapple with an enormous projected shortfall for the 2021 fiscal year, Mayor Alan Webber and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján praised a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package that includes money for local governments whose budgets have been waylaid by the pandemic.
But while the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill, it is meeting with resistance from the White House, which said Tuesday it will veto the legislation.
Webber said Tuesday the city could get $29 million from the so-called HEROES Act, and Luján said the package overall includes $375 billion for local governments and $1 trillion for local, state and tribal governments to keep people on the payroll and backfill budget shortfalls.
“That can be used to keep first responders, teachers, and public servants on the payroll and address revenue shortfalls.For New Mexico, that means $4.368 billion dollars; in local funds for New Mexico, $1.8 billion. Standing up for local governments should not be partisan. In fact, this is a bipartisan bill,” Luján said.
In a call with reporters Tuesday morning, Webber again outlined the city’s financial challenges: a projected $100 million budget hole in the 2021 fiscal year, which could get even deeper if a second wave of COVID-19 spurs another round of mass shutdowns and more economic turmoil.
“We’re looking at a summer without parks and recreation that we’ve traditionally had,” Webber said. “And the impact has been devastating. … Everything potentially is at risk in terms of the quality of life, and the value that people put on government becomes really questionable.”
The impact on local revenue of shutting down businesses and having to cancel large events that draw tourists to the city, such as the Santa Fe Indian Market and the International Folk Art Market could force tough budget decisions, city officials have said.
A stimulus bill for governmental entities was signed by President Donald Trump earlier in the COVID-19 crisis. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act included money for state and local governments, but a population restriction barred that money from going to any local governments in New Mexico other than Bernalillo County and Albuquerque.
Other cities, villages and townships in the state did not receive federal aid from the stimulus to deal with budget problems spurred by the novel coronavirus, prompting Luján and other Democratic lawmakers to push for more local government funding.
Correction: This story has been amended to reflect the following correction. A previous version of this story incorrectly reported the total amount of money New Mexico could receive from the HEROES Act. The state could receive $6.236 billion in state and local government aid if passed by the U.S. Senate.