DHSEM NEWS RELEASE
On Thursday, Governor Lujan Grisham signed an executive order (attached) declaring a state of emergency in Rio Arriba County. This order aims to provide local governments with the tools and funding they need to begin recovering from the snow squall and heavy winds that damaged electrical systems and other critical infrastructure on December 15, 2021.
This order provides up to $450,000 for the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) to support public recovery efforts organized by city and county officials.
In this instance, the state constitution does not allow state emergency funds to be used for direct financial assistance to private individuals.
Additionally, this declaration means that affected localities within the county could also be eligible for state assistance. State emergency declarations also authorize the Adjutant General to activate the New Mexico National Guard for necessary support, and they direct all cabinet departments to assist with a statewide response.
“Thousands of Rio Arriba County residents in the coldest areas of our county went without electrical power and telephone service, with very spotty cellular coverage, during the early hours of this emergency,” said Rio Arriba County Manager Lucia Sanchez. “Without power, electrical water pumps on wells and refrigerators and freezers aren’t working, and the shortage of propane delivery drivers to get propane to some of our neediest residents (the elderly who use propane to heat their homes) has made this emergency worse. Rio Arriba County is extremely thankful to DHSEM and Governor Lujan Grisham and her staff for responding so quickly to our request for an emergency declaration and the funds we need to address it.”
“This December 15th storm was a historic combination of snow, heavy winds, and temperatures well below freezing,” said DHSEM Secretary Bianca Ortiz-Wertheim. “It took a whole-of-government approach to provide the resources necessary to assist Rio Arriba County. I am so thankful to Rio Arriba’s local officials, our Tribal partners, Rio Arriba Emergency Management, and sister state agencies – the New Mexico State Police, the Aging and Long-Term Services Department, the Regulation and Licensing Department, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Transportation – who worked around the clock with the State Emergency Operations Center team to support Rio Arriba County residents. Now, with this executive order, local officials will have the tools they need to repair vital infrastructure.”