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KUNM News Update

TUES: Many Small Businesses Unable To Access Loan Program, State COVID-19 Cases Near 31,000, + More

U.S. Air Force photo by Rhett Isbell
COVID-19 testing

Strict Rules Keep Business Out Of New Mexico Loan Program - By Cedar Attanasio AP/Report For America

According to a state agency, only about $20 million of a $400 million loan program for New Mexico small businesses hit by the pandemic has been approved to send out since the program began in August.

In a presentation to the state legislature Tuesday, the agency tasked with distributing the low-interest loans said legislators might want to make it easier to qualify.

Around 85% of those businesses that didn't qualify for the Small Business Recovery Loan Fund failed to meet the requirement of showing a loss of at least 30% of revenue in April and May compared to the same time in 2019.

As written, the statute does not allow flexibility in the program for businesses that are less than a year old and therefore can't compare revenues.

The fund gives two months' worth of operating expenses to eligible entities owned by residents at an interest rate of around 2%, with no payments required in the first year.

Investment and Pension Oversight Committee Chairman Sen. George Muñoz asked for suggestions in the coming weeks on how to tweak the program to increase the distribution of the loans.

State Reports 316 New COVID-19 Cases Pushing Total To Nearly 31,000KUNM

New Mexico state health officials announced 316 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, but there were no additional deaths.

Bernalillo County led the state with 138 new cases followed by Doña Ana County with 37 cases. New Mexico has now had 30,947 cases and 894 deaths.

There were also 2 new cases among people held by federal agencies at the Otero County Processing Center.

There are currently 110 people hospitalized for COVID-19. That may include people who tested positive outside the state but are hospitalized in New Mexico. It does not include people who tested positive here but were hospitalized elsewhere.

The New Mexico Department of Health has designated more than 17,400 cases as having recovered.

State House Candidate Addresses His Work In 1980s Porn Films - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

A Democratic candidate in an open state House race is acknowledging his participation in two pornographic films in the 1980s as a college student.

The revelation about Roger Montoya of Velarde emerged as the nationally heralded arts educator runs for office in a sprawling rural legislative district.

Montoya says he was young and naive when he participated in the films and is not proud of it.

The state Republican Party on Monday called on Montoya to withdraw from the political race based on "unacceptable" risky and dangerous behavior.

Leading Democrats have rallied in support of Montoya.

Congresswoman Skips Initial Television Debate In New MexicoAssociated Press

Republican congressional candidate Michelle Garcia Holmes will discuss her campaign alone on local network television after incumbent U.S. Rep. Debra Haaland declined the invitation for a live-broadcast debate.

Haaland spokesman Scott Forrester says the congresswoman still plans to participate this week in candidate interviews on New Mexico PBS and a pre-recorded debate on KOAT.

Haaland's campaign was dissatisfied with terms of the debate proposed by KOB for Tuesday. Haaland is a Laguna Pueblo tribal member who became one of the first Native American women elected to Congress.

Republican nominee Garcia Holmes is a former police detective who ran unsuccessfully in 2018 for lieutenant governor.


New Mexico Governor Self-Isolates After Staff Gets Virus Morgan Lee, Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has tested negative for the coronavirus after a custodian at the governor’s mansion was diagnosed with COVID-19.

The governor is self-quarantining for a two-week period as an extra precaution in accordance with state guidelines.

Lujan Grisham spokesperson Nora Meyers Sackett said Monday that a staff member at the governor's official residence reported feeling unwell on the afternoon of Thursday, Oct. 1, and was immediately sent for a virus test that came out positive.

She said the governor was tested Friday with a negative result, and that 37 people who were potentially in the presence of the infected worker have been tested without any positive returned test results. A second round of testing for the governor and the others is scheduled for Wednesday.

Much of the governor's work already was being carried out remotely, though she typically delivered weekly virus updates by video feed from a legislative hearing room at the Statehouse.

US Senate Candidates Meet In First Debate - Associated Press

Candidates in an open U.S. Senate race outlined clashing visions for the future of health care, policing strategies and civil rights struggles in the first public debate of the campaign, aired live on local network television Monday.

Retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Udall has endorsed as his successor allied six-term U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, while Republican former television meteorologist Mark Ronchetti is promising to chart a more conservative political course and endorsed federal intervention to bolster law enforcement.

Candidates picked their own locations for the debate, amid the coronavirus outbreak at the White House and a recent positive test among staff at the governor's mansion in Santa Fe. Ronchetti participated from the television studio, Luján chose his campaign office in Albuquerque and Libertarian Bob Walsh spoke from his home in Santa Fe.

Ronchetti described his ambitions as a newcomer to politics, eager to broker compromises in Washington, D.C. He made little or no mention of Republican President Donald Trump, while admonishing Luján for climbing the congressional career ladder without advancing economic and educational opportunities in New Mexico.

Luján touted his support in Congress for the Affordable Care Act that has expanded health insurance coverage in New Mexico and his track record in securing federal funding for defense installations and water infrastructure projects on the Navajo Nation.

Confronted with his past praise of Trump's pandemic response, Ronchetti said "knowing what we knew, that we moved ahead as well as we could." He commended U.S. travel restrictions on China and early efforts to manufacture more ventilator breathing machines.

On efforts to craft a new pandemic relief package, Luján suggested another round of $1,200 direct payments to taxpayers is needed, along with an infusion of federal resources to public schools aimed at reopening classrooms safely.

Ronchetti said businesses should have liability protections in coronavirus-related lawsuits.

Ronchetti repeatedly said a House economic relief bill would let violent criminals out of prison. Luján dismissed the statements as lies.

Amid questions about the future of civil rights guarantees and racial equality, Ronchetti said policing reforms on the use of force are being derailed by partisanship, citing languishing proposals from Black GOP Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. Bipartisan policing reforms are within reach, Luján said.

Absentee balloting begins Tuesday across the state that has an all-Democratic delegation to Washington, D.C. New Mexico hasn't backed a Republican for Senate since 2002, and Trump lost New Mexico in 2016 to Hillary Clinton by 8 percentage points.

FBI Agent, Federal Prosecutor Assigned To Monitor ElectionAssociated Press

Federal law enforcement authorities are stepping up their vigilance for any possible civil rights violations related to the Nov. 3 election by establishing an FBI command post and assigning a prosecutor to monitor complaints or threats.

The precautionary effort is unprecedented in recent memory and was announced at a joint news conference Monday attended by New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and officials from the FBI and U.S. Attorney's office.

The command center will be supervised by FBI Special Agent in Charge Jim Langenberg on Election Day and in the succeeding days as votes are tallied.

The process of tallying ballots is likely to take more time than usual in November because of a massive surge in absentee balloting in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Toulouse Oliver expressed appreciation that federal authorities are putting extra resources toward safeguarding the integrity of the election.

Interior Secretary Will Not Delay New Mexico Land-Use Plan - Farmington Daily Times, Associated Press

The U.S. interior secretary has refused to delay a land-use plan that opponents say will lead to drilling thousands of new oil and gas wells. 

The Farmington Daily Times reported U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt says the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Indian Affairs will go forward with the plan for the Greater Chaco region. 

A public comment period ended last month after being extended from May because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Opponents say the health conditions have not changed and further action should be paused until in-person meetings can resume.

The Navajo Nation was among the entities requesting the plan be postponed during the pandemic.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham echoed the calls to delay adoption, requesting an ethnographic study be completed before the plan is finalized. Congress allocated $1 million for an ethnographic study.

Bernhardt said while the study will be useful, there are laws in place protecting cultural sites including the National Historic Preservation Act.

Bernhardt plans to continue deferring leases within 10 miles of the park boundaries through the end of the year, which he said gives the New Mexico congressional delegation time to pass legislation to codify the buffer zone.

Tourist Sites On Navajo Nation To Remain Closed Through 2020Associated Press

Tourist sites on the Navajo Nation, including the Four Corners Monument, will be closed through at least the rest of the year.

The Navajo Parks and Recreation Department cited a rise in coronavirus cases on the reservation and a tribal public health order in making the announcement. It said it will reassess in January.

The closure extends to rivers, trails, canyons and roads that lead to tribal parks at Lake Powell, the Little Colorado River, Antelope Canyon and Window Rock.

The National Park Service separately oversees popular spots like Canyon de Chelly National Monument and the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site. But the agency said it will operate in line with the Navajo Nation's orders.

The tribe reported 19 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and one death, bringing the total number of cases to 10,441 since the pandemic began and the number of deaths to 559.

A shelter-in-place order, mask mandate, daily curfews and weekend lockdowns remain in effect on the vast reservation that stretches into New Mexico, Utah and Arizona.


Police: Doña Ana Deputy Shoots Man After Crash In Las CrucesAssociated Press

Authorities said a Doña Ana County deputy shot a man who was allegedly threatening people with a shotgun after a car wreck in Las Cruces over the weekend.

Doña Ana County sheriff's office spokeswoman Perri Marte said a silver sedan and a pickup truck towing a trailer collided on Sunday around 10 a.m.

Marte said Sheriff Kim Stewart, who was off duty at the time of the crash, and other bystanders stopped to help the people involved in the accident when the driver of the sedan retrieved a shotgun out of the vehicle and threatened those nearby before authorities arrived.

The man fled the scene and was found by a deputy several blocks away, Marte said, adding that the deputy fired his weapon, striking the man. Marte did not comment on the man's condition, but said the deputy was OK. Neither were identified.

An investigation is ongoing.

The Dona Ana County sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to a message Monday seeking more details.

Farmington Teen Gets 2-Year Sentence In Fatal Shooting - Associated Press

Prosecutors say a teen will serve two years in juvenile detention for fatally shooting another Farmington teenager with a rifle last December. 

Farmington police said an investigation showed the weapon discharged while a group of teenagers was inside a vehicle. 

They say 16-year-old Elijah Chavez was shot in the torso and died in his bed at home. 

The Farmington Daily Times reports the then-15-year-old suspect was arrested in December 2019 for involuntary manslaughter and negligent use of a deadly weapon. 

He was convicted during a three-day trial in August at Farmington District Court and was sentenced to no more than two years by a judge last month.

The Associated Press isn't naming the teen because he's a juvenile.