By Jo Mixon
Mayor of the Village of Angel Fire
Anyone on unemployment has received a weekly benefit amount based on their wages over the past 18 months.These amounts rage from $87.00- $461.00 per week. The person does not receive the full amount of their wages nor even half the amount but a much smaller portion of their normal income. But since March 29th every New Mexican on unemployment received an additional $600.00 check per week from the Federal Government. That program expires this week. For some, the added amount did not add up to their normal paycheck, for others it was more than their usual paycheck. According to the State Department of Workforce Solutions over 135,000 people in New Mexico were on unemployment last week.
The US House of Representatives passed the Heroes Act on May 15 that included extending the extra $600.00 per week until January 2021. However the US Senate has not agreed with the bill, so nothing is settled. Even if Congress does approve additional relief, it won’t be done by next week. The result will leave a gap in benefits and the NM Department of Workforce Solutions will have to wait for guidance from the US Department of Labor. In the meantime, over 135,000 unemployed workers remain without jobs due to the Stay at Home Public Health Order with little or no means of support. The bills haven’t stopped arriving just because the economy has shut down. Hopefully some of them made enough and have been able to put money back to help them in the coming weeks. Many of them have not.
Sadly, lots of people who are not on unemployment, think the extra payments should not continue. Having spoken to hundreds of out of work New Mexicans, 92% of them would much rather be working than staying at home without purpose, in limbo, not knowing If they will be able to make ends meet or feed their families or when they will get to go back to work. They did not quit their jobs, they were forced to leave their jobs due to this pandemic and most of their jobs are still not available. Many are business owners who are losing or will lose everything they have spent their blood, sweat and tears to build and maintain. And there is the stigma of being labeled “non-essential”. Plus they worry about their employees that have become family, who they had to terminate.
I believe the thing I hate most about the past few months, other than the lives that have been lost and our economy being devastated, is the division that is happening among people in absolutely every aspect of life. Our belief systems are passionately deep rooted. Everyone has taken a side. What that means is you are on the side that’s right and absolutely against the other side, who is wrong. More concerning is both sides are all people who once genuinely cared about each other. I am more than concerned that these divisions are getting so wide, they will never change. There is so much hurt and blame between the two sides, one may not be able to forgive the other and the welcoming friendly community that we have worked so hard to grow together, is what will suffer the consequences.
I know I will receive an inbox full of email telling me what I should be doing, from both sides, that you disagree with me. I’ll be told people shouldn’t be making more on unemployment than they made before the shut down, yet many of you have a job and a paycheck every week, others retirement and investments that haven’t been touched with no need to worry about this crisis financially. And I’ll get both sides, one telling me I am not doing enough for the safety of our community and don’t care about lives, the other telling me I am overstepping my authority and don’t care about their freedoms. There are those who put stickers all over the village saying I care more about profit than I care about people and those who say I am a communist because I ask you to abide by the mandates to help stop the spread and get our businesses open. And then, gratefully, there are those who really know me, know my heart and how much I love and respect this community I am privileged to serve.
Out of our comfort zone creates anxieties and even animosities. Nothing is normal. We haven’t been able to enjoy a concert in the park together, a glass of wine at a dinner gala together or volunteer at an event together. So I implore you again to begin now to put your differences aside. Stop blaming one another. Stop hating one another. Stop trying to hurt one another, take care of yourself and for everyone’s well being, JUST BE NICE to one another!