September Newsletter from Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham
Updated On: Sep 21, 2021
I hope you and your families are well and finding time to enjoy the beautiful New Mexico weather as fall approaches.
We are busy working to move the state’s economic recovery forward while continuing to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping our kids safely in school, and much more.
Promising signs of economic recovery
Over 93 percent of New Mexico counties showed significant economic recovery and increases in consumer confidence in the last quarter of the fiscal year -- April, May and June 2021, according to a recent report from the Economic Development Department.
Twenty-seven of New Mexico’s 33 counties showed an increase year-over-year in Matched Taxable Gross Receipts, which is an important measure of economic activity.
It’s a very promising sign of recovery more than 18 months after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s a path of progress we’re determined to stay on. It shows that the decisions we have made to protect one another, the sacrifices we’ve made to keep our communities and our state safe, will not inhibit our economic progress. We continue to do everything we can, using state and federal dollars and resources, to help New Mexico businesses thrive.
The latest on COVID-19
In mid-August, the state reimplemented the requirement to wear masks in all public spaces. This has had a significant impact on viral transmission: At the time we reinstated the indoor requirement, the 7-day average positivity rate in our state was 9 percent; this week, it has been reduced to 6.5 percent. So, our hope is that new cases have started to level off this month, but with hospital beds still in short supply, we extended the mask requirement until at least October 15 to continue to protect New Mexicans against the highly infectious Delta variant.
Vaccination remains the best weapon we have against COVID-19, and I encourage you to sign up to be vaccinated if you haven’t received your full doses at VaccineNM.org. The vaccine is safe, effective and available for those 12 and older.
We were happy to see a large increase in vaccinations in August - a 58 percent jump up from July! Statewide, we are nearing 70 percent of our population being fully vaccinated. We are one of the best states in the country for vaccinations. Keep it up; this is something to be very proud of!
To protect our most vulnerable populations, we also announced last month that all workers in hospitals and congregate care facilities, like nursing homes and prisons, must be fully vaccinated, with few exceptions.
Thank you to everyone who is doing their part to protect themselves, their families, and their communities by masking up and getting vaccinated. We will get through this together, and the state is continuing to do all it can to protect New Mexicans.
Back to school:
Our kids are back in school, and while it looks different than when we were in the classroom, we are so excited to see them back with their friends and teachers -- and we’re making sure we’re keeping them safe.
The Departments of Public Education and Health are making COVID-19 testing resources available to schools to ensure students and staff have easy and free access to testing. We also continue to require that unvaccinated staff be regularly tested, including those without symptoms; that schools report positive cases among staff and students to the Public Education Department; and that everyone wears a facemask inside school buildings.
And these measures are paying off - the number of students and staff infectious with COVID-19 while on a public school campus dropped 37 percent the week of September 6.
But we know our responsibility to our children goes far beyond protecting them from the virus, and we are steadfast in our commitment to helping our kids through the pandemic and beyond - educationally and emotionally.
In January of this year, we launched the state’s first-ever Social Emotional Learning Framework, and on September 15, the New Mexico Cares portal for students, parents and teachers went live online. Both of these resources give our families and educators the tools to help students develop the emotional and thought structures to find happiness, success, meaning and purpose in life. During this difficult time, these skills are more critical than ever, and we are committed to helping our students succeed academically and personally.
Lastly -- in case you missed it -- the 2021-2022 school year is the New Mexico Year of Literacy. The Public Education Department has been sharing photos of state leaders “getting caught” reading by themselves or with children on Twitter. I encourage each of you to sit down and read a book with a child in your life. Reading has the power to transform our children’s lives, and it’s so important for us to lead by example.
Preserving 30 percent of New Mexico lands by 2030
New Mexico cherishes its natural resources for their extreme beauty, as well as their recreational, cultural and agricultural uses. In a desert state, our water resources are especially precious. On August 25, I signed an executive order pledging to protect and preserve 30 percent of New Mexico’s lands by the year 2030.
With the effects of climate change being felt throughout the state -- 17 of the last 20 years have been spent in severe drought -- protecting our natural resources is more important than ever.
State agencies will work closely together - and with tribes, pueblos and communities - to leverage state and federal resources to meet this important goal.
After heavy rains caused devastating flooding in communities around New Mexico in mid-August, we moved quickly to provide emergency funding and resources to aid in the recovery.
I declared emergencies for Doña Ana, Mora and Rio Arriba counties, as well as the Village of Ruidoso, making up to $750,000 in state emergency funds available to each entity. The Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is out in communities, helping them to assess damages and develop recovery projects, and Environment Department staff have been providing technical support to public drinking water systems in affected communities to ensure water supplies are safe.
We continue to work closely with these communities and their residents.
State to begin collecting voluntary sexual orientation, gender identity information:
On August 15, I signed an executive order directing state agencies to begin including voluntary questions about sexual orientation and gender identity on state forms. The data collected will be invaluable to our efforts to tackle inequalities and inequities too often experienced by these communities.
Every single New Mexican should receive top-notch service from state agencies, and collecting this data is a significant and meaningful step toward that goal.
More information about the executive order is available here.
Giving the chile industry, workers a boost:
New Mexico chile is beloved the world over -- and it’s an integral industry to our economy. With a labor shortage looming as harvest season begins, we are leveraging federal recovery dollars to offer wage supplements to farmers to ensure their crops make it to market. The supplemental wage will allow farmers to boost hourly salaries from the average of around $15 an hour to nearly $20 -- a difference we’re hopeful will bring more workers to our fields of green and red.
In fact, the program has helped already helped 13 businesses boost the wages of over 1,000 workers - and the volume of chile harvested so far this season is up around 5 percent from this time last year!
It’s essential that our economic recovery leaves no industry behind, and we’ll continue to search for innovative ways to lift all businesses up, together.
New Mexicans are sick and tired of crimes in their communities, and I am too. That’s why we temporarily assigned nearly 24 state police officers to Albuquerque to assist the police department there in curbing crime. The operation is focused on identifying and apprehending violent criminals with felony warrants; automobile theft; narcotics trafficking; and aggressive driving and DWI on Interstates 25 and 40.
As of September 14, State Police made nearly 93 felony arrests, with most individuals being wanted for violent crimes. State Police will continue their assignment through the end of the month.
No one in New Mexico should have to put up with violent crime, and I believe state and local police efforts in Albuquerque will have a lasting and positive impact in the community.
Welcome to new agency leadership:
Lastly, I want to offer a warm welcome and introduce you all to a few new faces among state leadership:
Public Education Department Secretary Kurt A. Steinhaus: Educator, education administrator and recently retired superintendent of Los Alamos Public Schools
Department of Public Safety Secretary Jason Bowie: Former deputy chief of the Rio Rancho Police Department
Incoming Children, Youth and Families Department Secretary Barbara J. Vigil: Recently retired senior justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court and long-time advocate for juvenile justice reform. Barbara will take the helm at the agency on October 1.
All three of these individuals are deeply qualified and passionate about public service to New Mexicans. I have no doubt they will each make significant strides toward tangibly improving the quality of life for all New Mexicans.
Thanks so much for your interest in the important work we are doing in communities around the state. Please share this newsletter with your friends and family and let us know if you’d like to start receiving it too!
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