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Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 5:20 p.m. MDT


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — In its latest attempt to bolster access to child care, New Mexico is allowing subsidies for parents who work or study remotely. Families at or below 200% of the poverty line can apply for assistance. The Early Childhood Education and Care Department said Tuesday that the changes allowing remote workers and students to use the subsidies are permanent. Parents have been struggling to balance work and child care with most schools closed because of the pandemic. Child care providers also have struggled to stay afloat with higher costs to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and lower profits because fewer children are allowed in their buildings at once.


WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation is implementing a stricter weekend lockdown as it looks into new clusters of coronavirus cases. Residents of the vast reservation that extends into New Mexico, Arizona and Utah will be required to stay home from Friday evening until early Monday morning. A previous lockdown was a day shorter. Tribal President Jonathan Nez says the tribe is investigating new cases that resulted from family gatherings around Ganado, Arizona, and on the eastern side of the reservation in New Mexico. A new public health order with the extended lockdown is expected Tuesday.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas says the state's natural resources are plentiful, but there have been missed opportunities to create prosperity because minority communities haven't been involved. He announced Tuesday that he's establishing a council to look into bolstering inclusion of communities of color for decisions about environmental protection and access to natural resources. The Equity Advisory Council that will start work soon includes state lawmakers and advocates who work on water, land and livestock issues. Balderas says he is open to adding more members because the goal is to welcome more diverse perspectives.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico has depleted its unemployment benefits trust fund and begun to use federal loans to keep up with claims. Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill McCamley told a panel of state legislators on Tuesday that unemployment trust reserves were exhausted on Sept. 8 and that the state has spent about $35 million in borrowed federal funds on claims. The federal loans if left unpaid can eventually trigger tax increases. New Mexico's unemployment rate of 11.4% in August exceeds neighboring states as health officials take gradual steps toward reopening the economy and schools. About 123,000 people statewide are receiving unemployment benefits.


AZTEC, N.M. (AP) — Efforts to expand railroad service in northwestern New Mexico have been bolstered by a $2 million federal grant. San Juan County was among hundreds of entities that applied for funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The county will receive $2 million to study the economic viability of a rail spur, and the design and construction. The county and the Navajo Nation agreed earlier this year to pursue a freight railroad to serve the Four Corners region. It's been the topic of several studies over the decades. Efforts have intensified recently because of anticipated economic losses from the coal-fired power plants.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department is siding with the father of a seventh grade prep school student in a lawsuit that challenges pandemic-related limits on classroom capacity at private schools in New Mexico as more restrictive than public school guidelines. Albuquerque-based U.S. Attorney John Anderson filed a statement of interest on Monday that argues the state is violating the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by limiting attendance at private schools to 25% of building capacity when public school guidelines say 50%. Separately, President Donald Trump has proposed diverting federal funding away from public schools that decline to open. 


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is sending campaign emails that accuse President Trump of single-handedly botching the nation's coronavirus response. Governors including Lujan Grisham and California's Gavin Newsom have been noticeably reluctant at times to criticize Trump publicly since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, as their state's rely heavily on aid from the federal government to respond to the crisis and balance budgets. That tone shifts in a campaign email from Lujan Grisham that says Trump refused to take action "while knowing how deadly and dangerous COVID-19 would be." State health officials responded last week to an increased number of virus outbreaks associated with work settings.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's largest electric utility and Sandia National Laboratories is teaming up to make the electric grid more resilient as the state gears up to add more renewable energy to the mix. The research and development partnership was announced Monday. Lab officials say the agreement will address energy challenges not just in New Mexico but across the U.S., as a safe and reliable electric power system is critical to national security. Under the agreement, researchers will be working over the next several years on everything from energy storage systems to artificial intelligence and new sensor technology that can support the grid.