It’s true that there are many challenges in District 31. But there is also a lot of promise. While these are by no means all the issues facing our district, here are some of the issues I’ll start addressing on day 1:
New Mexico CARE Program
Student loan forgiveness for health care workers: Nurses, respiratory therapists, EMTs, and other health care workers who served on the front lines of this pandemic will be eligible for student loan repayments. Their service during this pandemic must be recognized and compensated.
Service compensation: If a health care worker should contract and succumb to COVID-19 while performing their duties, their family will receive a compensation payment of $100,000. This compensation is modeled after the compensation families of service members receive when they are killed in action.
Service worker's tax credits: Every service worker who was deemed essential and was required to work during this pandemic will receive at least a $750 tax credit on their state income taxes next year. These are personnel such as sanitation workers, janitorial staff, farm workers, and food delivery drivers, along with grocery store clerks and fast food employees.
Utility arrearages fund: While utility companies have stated they will allow their customers to miss payments during the implementation of stay-at-home orders these bills can continue to mount resulting in serious debt accumulation for citizens who are bearing the most economic strain of the economic slowdown. The NM CARE legislation will establish a $100 million fund where citizens can apply to have their utility arrearages paid.
Regional task force: Our county shares a border with the city and county of El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez. Since the pandemic erupted there has been an entire region of people who live and work under varying and incongruent stay-at-home orders. Citizens in the borderland need a regional task force comprised of officials from New Mexico, El Paso, and Ciudad Juarez to work together to plan for the possibility of another pandemic and other natural disasters. This task force would seek funding not only from their respective states but from their national governments as well. The task force would hire a staff to create and run simulations in order to maintain a level of preparedness for the citizens they are charged with keeping safe.
I lost my dad in 2016. It was heartbreaking, and continues to be to this day. But there were a few things I learned during his illness. First, we don’t have the medical facilities needed to serve the population of the county adequately. Second, we don’t have the necessary specialists in the county. And, while work has been done to make healthcare accessible to more Americans, it’s still simply too expensive to get the care you need, especially when you have a chronic illness.
I know of residents in the county who have to drive three to four hours north to Albuquerque to see a specialist. My own mother is one of them. For our seniors and working families, taking this trip can be an impossible barrier to overcome. Yet while this is happening in our state, Texas Tech has built a school in El Paso, and new hospitals and medical facilities have gone up as well. New Mexico needs to keep pace with this type of growth.
By attracting better jobs with health care to the area, we can entice more medical professionals as well. We can look at finding ways to bring specialists to the area through programs like student loan forgiveness. Our residents deserve access to the best professionals and facilities, just like everyone else.
Growing up, there were moments that stick out when I realized my family was definitely working-class, like when there were heavy rains. The soil in this part of the country is excellent for growing crops like cotton and onions, but you can easily find yourself getting stuck in your car on roads that haven’t been paved or maintained. And while this can be a major inconvenience for some, bad roads can be life-threatening for others when first responders need to get somewhere quickly.
Driving around the district, we still see far too many roads and not enough infrastructure preventing flooding. Time and again we see communities where roads get washed out and homes threatened. Enough is enough. We need a legislator who will work to find resources to pave our roads and prevent flooding.
And it doesn’t just end with our roads. Almost every community in District 31 is designated as a colonia. This means the federal government recognizes there isn’t adequate housing or infrastructure available. While many have worked hard to secure funds for these communities, we need to do more to bring these neighborhoods into the 21st century and ensure they have decent housing and infrastructure.
Jobs and Economic Development
Did you know District 31 is home to at least three museums?
Did you know most of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National monument is in the district?
And, did you know the International border crossing in Santa Teresa is one of the busiest places for importing beef in the country?
District 31 has some of the best opportunities for economic development in the county, and probably in southern New Mexico. Whether it’s from tourism or trade, there are still many untapped resources where we can grow our economy and attract jobs so our residents can earn good wages and healthcare.
We also need to do a much better job working with our neighbors in El Paso. As an international city on the border, El Paso’s growth and development has a tremendous effect on the communities in our district. We need to find ways to work side-by-side to ensure our communities are safe, healthy and vibrant.