FRI: New Mexico Again Offers Virus Relief To Immigrants And Elderly, + More

10 hours ago

New Mexico Again Offers Virus Relief To Immigrants, Elderly - By Cedar Attanasio Associated Press / Report For America

New Mexico officials are opening up applications next week for the second round of cash payments to residents who are ineligible for federal stimulus funds, including immigrants in the country without legal permission.

The application window for the $5 million program opens Monday, the Human Services Department announced Thursday, and closes June 25.

Applicants must be New Mexico residents who didn't qualify for the $1,400 federal stimulus checks.

Immigrants in the country illegally were among those who applied in the last round, often using their tax identification numbers and state driver's licenses to prove residency.

Others eligible for the money include elderly residents that can be claimed as dependents by caretakers and others excluded by IRS rules.

The department says it will prioritize the lowest-income applicants and may dole out less than the $750 authorized by the state legislature in order to help the most people with the highest need. Around 15,000 people received checks of about $465 each from a similar round of state funding in December, excluding around half of those who applied.

The New Mexico state legislature funds the program with an appropriation from federal pandemic relief funds. Cities like Albuquerque and Santa Fe have similarly aided residents ineligible for federal payments, using their own pandemic relief dollars.

State and local officials have also distributed billions of dollars in pandemic relief to businesses and individuals who are also eligible for direct federal relief payments.


New Mexico Amends Rules To Prohibit Oil And Gas SpillsSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

It will be unlawful for oil and natural gas drillers to spill liquid waste under revised rules adopted Thursday by New Mexico oil and gas regulators.

The unanimous vote by the state Oil Conservation Commission comes after the panel heard testimony from environmentalists, industry representatives and residents during a daylong hearing.

The changes stem from a joint proposal by the state's energy agency and the environmental group WildEarth Guardians.

Before now, New Mexico did not have a rule that expressly prohibited drillers from spilling oil, waste water from the drilling process or other liquids. Instead, companies were required to report spills and then work with the state to clean it up.

Industry representatives told the commission that leeway should be given to operators who sustain spills because of weather events, vandalism, equipment breakdowns and other things beyond their control.

Critics argued that the previous rules were inadequate and relied on an honor system that not all operators adhered to, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

Environmentalists during the hearing pointed to state data that showed there were roughly 12,000 spills and releases between 2010 and 2020.

Daniel Timmons of WildEarth Guardians said in a statement that the changes will provide incentive for companies to prevent spills from happening in the first place.

Eastern New Mexico Flooding Prompts Emergency Declarations Associated Press

Severe flooding in eastern New Mexico has prompted Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to declare states of emergency in Lincoln and Chaves counties.

The governor issued her executive orders Wednesday, freeing up $1.5 million for the counties to use for repairs and to prevent more damage.

State officials say the flooding that began over the Memorial Day weekend continues to threaten public safety and critical infrastructure.

Local officials pointed to a levee near Roswell that was overwhelmed by heavy rain and storm runoff over the holiday weekend. They said the water had breached the levee in at least two locations.

The city of Roswell shared video footage of the flooding on social media following a tour last week. Residents also posted images and video of water flowing through neighborhoods and covering streets.

Officials in both counties said the emergency declarations will help to open avenues for relief for those affected by the flooding.

State Homeland Security and Emergency Management Secretary Bianca Ortiz-Wertheim said her agency has been working with local officials, the American Red Cross and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers since last week.

"Despite this tragedy, our department has been inspired by the way these communities have come together to protect one another, propose solutions, and begin recovering from this disaster," she said.

Trial Begins In Rape, Killing Of 6-Year-Old In New Mexico - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Opening statements have started this week for a trial against a New Mexico man prosecutors say raped and killed 6-year-old Ariana "Jade" Romeo in August 2018.

Jade's mother, Stephanie Romeo, told a jury on Wednesday that she came home from a long night of work and climbed into the bed beside her daughter without realizing the girl was dead. Romero recounted that the following morning on Aug. 11 she tried to wake the girl up.

Court records show Ariana Romeo, who was mostly nude and bloodied, was cold to the touch, not breathing and wrapped tightly in a blanket. She also had multiple injuries to her body. The medical examiner's office ruled her death as homicide by strangulation.

The Rio Rancho Police Department responded to the home where an officer encountered a man, later identified as a suspect, Leland Hust, 24, leaving a room in the home. It is unclear what, if anything, Hust told police that day.

A criminal complaint revealed detectives later interviewed Hust on Aug. 23, where he told detectives he last saw Ariana Romeo on Aug. 10 when he put on a movie for her in her room. He denied having anything to do with her death. The complaint also said laboratory results from the New Mexico State Crime Lab matched Hust's DNA to DNA found from the girl's genital swabs. 

Hust is charged with intentional child abuse resulting in death and rape of a child younger than 13, both first-degree felonies. Hust could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of either charge.

His attorney Michael Rosenfield told jurors that police botched the investigation and later coerced Hust into making incriminating statements by overstating the strength of DNA evidence implicating Hust, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

"This is a murky case based on insufficient investigation," Rosenfield said, noting during his opening statement that sloppy police work destroyed evidence at the scene that could have identified the killer.

Assistant District Attorney Jannette Mondragón argued that Hust was the only member in the home who could not be eliminated as a source of the DNA. She also said he was the last person to see her alive, a claim Rosenfield disputed.

Two Rio Rancho firefighters and the owner of the home, Brenda Scates, were also called to testify.

The trial is expected to last up to 10 days.

2 Española Officers Fatally Shoot Man During Park EncounterAssociated Press

Two Española police officers fatally shot a man who allegedly used his vehicle to drag one of the officers during an encounter in a park, the New Mexico State Police said.

The officers drew their guns and shot Luis Nathan Leyba, 38, of Española, Tuesday night after he disregarded commands to stop, a State Police statement said.

A woman who was with Leyba was released from a hospital after treatment for minor injuries, the statement said.

The two officers were placed on administrative leave pending the State Police investigation into the incident.