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Bill expanding rural health tax credits during COVID-19 pandemic passes first committee

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times

AZTEC — Rep. Anthony Allison's bill intended to assist frontline workers who have risked their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic received a "do pass" vote on Feb. 1 from the House Health and Human Services Committee.

Allison is a Democrat who lives in Fruitland and represents a rural area of western San Juan County. His bill, House Bill 104, would expand who is eligible for rural health tax credits for care provided during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This would include registered nurses, midwives and other people who are essential to ensuring people in rural areas have access to health care. 

“It is something that I feel that is long overdue to the people who have been serving our rural communities especially,” Allison said.

A health care professional collects a sample during the free testing site for COVID-19 on May 5, 2020 at Shiprock High School in Shiprock. A tax credit for frontline workers moved one step closer to reality thanks to a legislative committee sending the bill forward for future consideration.

The "do pass" vote from the committee on Feb. 1 for the Expand Rural Health Tax Credit for Pandemic bill (H.B.104) is the first hurdle the bill had to pass. 

The bill received support from the New Mexico Nurses Association. Linda Siegle, a lobbyist of the nurses association, spoke in favor of the legislation during the public comment section.

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“Certainly we would like to see all the registered nurses who are on the absolute frontlines of this pandemic to be able to receive this tax credit," she said.

The bill does not include a sunset date. Allison said it would rely on the public health orders from the New Mexico Department of Health and the governor's office.

Rep. Anthony Allison, D-Fruitland, has sponsored a bill that would expand who is eligible for the rural health tax credits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two legislators who voted against the do pass motion both said they support the goals of the bill but have concerns about the lack of a sunset date.

This included the committee chairwoman Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, who warned that the bill may not receive support of the House Taxation and Revenue Committee if it does not have a sunset date.

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Armstrong also had some concerns with the bill including non-health care workers who are in the sector, such as custodial and security staff. Armstrong expressed concerns that it could encompass all hospital workers in rural hospitals. This could raise the price tag on the legislation.

"That's probably a massive number of people," she said.

She suggested narrowing the focus.

While Allison did not rule out narrowing the focus, he said people who work in hospitals but don't necessarily provide health care have also "laid their lives and safety on the line."

The bill now goes to the House Taxation and Revenue Committee.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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