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

May 20, 2020

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — State health authorities are making it possible for New Mexico residents to spend food stamp benefits to purchase food online and reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission associated with local shopping trips. The Human Services Department announced Wednesday that money from the federally subsidized Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can be used for online food purchases at Walmart and Amazon using electronic benefit transfer cards. The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the state's application for online purchasing authorization earlier this month. New Mexico on Wednesday reported another 134 cases, bringing the total to more than 6,300, with 283 deaths.


BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Trump administration has started giving energy companies temporary breaks on royalties they must pay for oil and gas extracted from federal lands because of the coronavirus pandemic, government data shows. The move is drawing criticism as a corporate handout that will mean less money for states that get a share of the money. Administration officials say the breaks are being granted only for companies that can show lower royalties are necessary for them to continue extracting fuel from public leases. Royalty rate cuts so far have been authorized for at least 76 energy leases in Utah. More reductions, including in other states, are in the works.


FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — The Navajo Nation's casinos in New Mexico and Arizona are staying closed until at least next month amid the coronavirus pandemic. The decision is in line with the tribe's partial government closure and stay-at-home order that expires June 7. The tribe has three casinos in New Mexico near Farmington, Shiprock and Gallup, and one in Arizona east of Flagstaff. The casinos have been closed since mid-March. Casino officials say employees still are receiving paychecks and have access to mental health and other services. A large Navajo Nation farm in northwestern New Mexico also says it will keep an on-site store open with reduced hours. 


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico health insurance regulators say statewide enrollment in Medicaid is on the rise as businesses shed workers in response to the coronavirus pandemic. State regulators said Tuesday that Medicaid enrollment increased by roughly 8,650 people in April over the previous month. Colin Baillio of the insurance superintendent's office says the state can expect to see more people shifting from employer-based health insurance to the federally subsidized plan for residents living in poverty or on the cusp, as unemployment swells. The state's Workforce Solutions Department was providing unemployment benefits to roughly 117,000 New Mexico residents as of last week.


RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — A Republican U.S. Senate hopeful in New Mexico is blasting one of her opponents in an ad over his previous critical comments about President Donald Trump. Elisa Martinez released Tuesday a new commercial that attacks former television weatherman Mark Ronchetti saying at a climate change event last year that he was a Republican "until the orange one," referring to the president. The Martinez ad comes after Rochetti released his own set of commercials with uplifting messages and promises that America's best days "are ahead of us." In his commercials, Ronchetti said he supports Trump's policies around China and the U.S.-Mexico border wall.


HOBBS, N.M. (AP) — Authorities in New Mexico say two parents accused of child abuse and their four children haven't been seen or heard from in nearly a month. Hobbs police issued warrants last week for Luiza Badea and Andrei Cristian Ducila for custodial interference after they skipped out on a home visit with a social worker. The state child welfare agency couldn't comment specifically on the case but said law enforcement is notified whenever contact is lost with a parent or guardian and they work to relocate them. The abuse case involving Badea and Ducila stems from 2019 when the couple was panhandling with their children.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says a northern New Mexico hospital will pay $98,000 to settle a discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by the agency. The case against Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe was filed on behalf of an employee who claimed a supervisor subjected her to a hostile work environment because she is deaf. The lawsuit accused the hospital of failing to provide reasonable accommodations for Asheley Coriz and firing her because of her disability and complaints she made about her supervisor's conduct. The settlement includes back pay and damages. 


RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — The founder of a group called Cowboys for Trump who also serves as a New Mexico county commissioner is facing calls to resign after he metaphorically said "the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat." A video posted online Tuesday shows Republican Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin saying he wants Democrats to die politically, not physically. He says the party is anti-American and opposed to President Donald Trump. State Democratic chairwoman Marg Elliston said Griffin's comments had no place in the state's political discourse and called for him to resign. Griffin said he would not resign because he did nothing wrong,