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New Mexico pays for empty buildings as remote work lingers

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Inspections have found that New Mexico is paying to maintain entire buildings and several building floors of unused office space as many state workers continue to telecommute from home in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

The program evaluation from the Legislature's budget and accountability office was scheduled for discussion by lawmakers on Tuesday.

Unused building space costs the state up to $18 million a year, the inquiry found.

In one instance, an agency has no plan in place for a return to in-person work at a nearly empty facility with a $1.2 million annual lease.

Currently up to 38% of state employees work from home remotely on any given day.

The three branches of state government spend about $158 million a year on maintenance, utilities and rent for building and office space that spans across the equivalent of 380 football fields.

The study finds leased building space is especially costly to the state and its taxpayers.