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New Mexico races to spend federal grant money on time

August 25, 2021 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — State agencies in New Mexico have spent $5.8 billion in federal pandemic relief grants as they try to shore up household income, childhood nutrition, public education and internet service.

A briefing from the budget and accountability office of the state Legislature shows that the state has spent more than half of its $10.1 billion share of federal funds through 130 grants.

About $3.8 billion has been spent on mandatory programs such as unemployment insurance and Medicaid. And the federal government is making permanent an increased benefit under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps.

Agencies could be hard-pressed to spend nearly $4 billion in optional spending before the offers expire, according to the spending report outlined Wednesday by staff with the Legislative Finance Committee.

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The pressure to pay out grants before they expire could lead to uncompetitive contracting through emergency exemptions, the evaluation warned.

The legislative analysts pointed to $5.6 million in marketing and advertising contracts awarded by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration for the state’s rental assistance program. While previous guidance from the committee has recommended setting price limits for such contracts, emergency exemptions were used in this case.

There has been no progress reported on the administration’s proposed program to provide special oversight on federal relief spending.

Some lawmakers said Wednesday they would like to see more details from state agencies on what the money is being used for.

States, cities and counties with populations over 250,000 are required by the federal government to submit interim, quarterly and annual reports on the use of their recovery funds. The first report is due Aug. 31.