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Las Cruces City Council debates legality of $4.75 million virus aid plan

A view looking up at Las Cruces City Hall.
A view looking up at Las Cruces City Hall.

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico -- For four hours on Monday afternoon, the Las Cruces City Council grappled to find a legal way to provide aid to thousands of Las Cruces residents displaced by the coronavirus pandemic.

"You say, we have 'rainy day' funds," said Councilman Gabe Vasquez, who represents district three. "It's raining. It's hailing. We need to be able to use this money now, or else, what the heck do we have this money for?"

The city currently has close to $40 million in the 'Telshor Fund,' Mayor Ken Miyagishima told ABC-7 last week. However, the fund is intended for sick or indigent people in Las Cruces.

In 2019, the city allocated $1 million from the Telshor Fund to care for migrants released to the city by the federal government.

"The asylum seekers were arriving as indigents," said Jennifer Vega-Brown, the city's attorney. "They didn't have any belongings. Their health was in danger."

New Mexico's Anti-Donation Clause prevents government agencies from providing aid directly to businesses or private citizens.

"They way I look at it, we have an obligation to help those people who have been displaced," Vasquez said.

"The Anti-Donation clause prohibits any kind of private benefit," Vega-Brown said. "That would certainly fall underneath that realm."

Ultimately, the Las Cruces City Council took no vote or concrete action on Monday. However, Miyagishima said he hopes to declare an emergency before the end of the week.

You can watch the entire council debate in the video player below.

Article Topic Follows: New Mexico

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Kate Bieri

Kate Bieri is ABC-7’s New Mexico Mobile Newsroom reporter and co-anchors ABC-7’s weekend evening newscasts.


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