US states make own arrangements for virus aid

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AP

Santa Fe

Faulting inaction in Washington, governors and state lawmakers are racing to get pandemic relief to small-business owners, the unemployed, renters and others whose livelihoods have been upended by the widening coronavirus outbreak.

In some cases, elected officials are spending the last of a federal relief package passed in the spring as an end-of-year deadline approaches and the fall COVID-19 surge threatens their economies anew. Democrats have been the most vocal in criticizing President Donald Trump and the GOP-controlled Senate for failing to act, but many Republican lawmakers are also sounding the alarm.

Underscoring the need for urgency, the number of new COVID-19 cases reported in the United States reached 205,557 on Friday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University – the first time its daily figure topped the 200,000 mark. Its previous daily high was 196,000 on Nov. 20.

The total number of cases reported in the U.S., since the first one in January, has topped 13 million.

The Democratic governors of Colorado and New Mexico convened special legislative sessions in the closing days of November to address the virus-related emergency. Earlier this week, the New Mexico Legislature passed a bipartisan relief bill that will deliver a one-time $1,200 check to all unemployed workers and give up to $50,000 to certain businesses.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the state took action to help residents “who have real issues about keeping food on their table, a roof over their head.”

“While the United States of America is on fire, the Trump administration has left states to fight this virus on their own,” she said, noting state efforts alone simply are not enough. “It is clear no help is coming — not from this president, not from this administration. As we have done every day this year, New Mexico will step up.”

In Colorado, a special session scheduled for Monday will consider roughly $300 million in relief to businesses, restaurants and bars, child-care providers, landlords, tenants, public schools and others. “Even as cases have exploded across the country, Congress and the president have not yet passed much-needed relief for people,” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said in announcing the session. “Here in Colorado, we want to do the best with what we have to take care of our own.”