New Mexico braces for end of federal unemployment bonuses

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — State labor and workforce training officials are bracing for the end of a $300 weekly federal bonus in unemployment benefits that also bolstered income for the self-employed and gig-economy workers in response to the pandemic.

New Mexico officials used an online forum Tuesday to direct people on unemployment rolls toward resources for job postings, career training resources, mock interviews and even free desks and phones at Workforce Connection offices. Supplemental unemployment benefits expire Sept. 4 across New Mexico as related federal programs come to a close.

Workforce Solutions and State Personnel Secretary Ricky Serna said the end of supplemental unemployment benefits predominantly affect the self-employed, contract workers and other so-called gig workers.

Those individuals will have a 30-day grace period to file new claims for retroactive benefits dating back to February. People still waiting on eligibility determinations also can receive payment retroactively after Sept. 4.

The state also is highlighting an available $18 million in scholarship funds for college studies toward a professional certificate, associate degree and more.

New Mexico already has reinstated work-search requirements that were suspended in the depths of the pandemic amid aggressive public health orders that restricted business operations and limited public gatherings. On Tuesday, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham reinstated mask requirements for public indoor spaces.

About 22 states, mostly led by Republican governors already have pulled the plug on the $300 weekly federal supplemental over concerns that it may discourage people from returning to work when jobs are available. Nationwide about 12 million people currently are receiving unemployment benefits.

Lujan Grisham has vowed to replenish the state’s insurance trust fund with federal relief funds to avoid future tax increases to businesses.

New Mexico’s unemployment rate fell to 7.9% in June — tied with Connecticut for the highest rate in the nation.