New Mexico rolls out new supplemental unemployment benefit

SANTA FE, N.M. | New Mexico labor officials says they have started paying out supplemental federal unemployment benefits of $300 a week.

The Workforce Solutions Department announced Friday that it has begun processing supplemental benefits for the five week period starting on July 26. That is when a larger $600 weekly federal supplement to unemployment benefits expired.

Recipients for the new payments must already qualify for state unemployment benefits of at least $100 a week. They could receive up to $1,500 in a separate payment from standard benefits.

New Mexico was among the first state's to receive approval for the new unemployment benefits channeled through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Since March 15, the state Workforce Solutions Department has paid out more than $2 billion in assistance to more than 200,000 residents.

Big airlines fight with smaller ones over airport rights

WASHINGTON | Federal regulators are proposing allowing airlines to hold on to their valuable takeoff and landing slots at several big U.S. airports, even if they are not fully using their rights due to lower traffic during the pandemic.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Friday it plans to extend temporary waivers of minimum flight requirements at Kennedy and LaGuardia airports in New York and Reagan Washington National near Washington, D.C., through March 27. Those waivers, approved in April as air travel collapsed, expire Oct. 24.

The FAA allocates takeoff and landing slots at congested airports under a “use it or lose it” approach. Big airlines including American, Delta and United fear losing slots in New York and Washington because they are operating far fewer flights during the pandemic. They are supported by trade groups for U.S. and global airlines.

However, budget carriers Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Air and a trade group for North American airports oppose the extension.

Spirit said big airlines that control most of the slots will continue to seek more waivers, which it said would limit competition. The airport group said waivers encourage underuse of takeoff and landing slots, which it called a valuable public resource.

Bars in some Louisiana parishes can open under latest rules

New Orleans | Bars in a handful of Louisiana parishes will be allowed to re-open under new, looser coronavirus restrictions announced Friday by Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Bars in the state have been closed since July unless they have licenses to operate as restaurants. Under the guidelines announced Friday, bars in parishes where the percentage of positive COVID-19 deaths is 5% or below for four weeks can open if parish leaders give the OK, Edwards said.

Dr. Alex Billioux, an assistant state health secretary, estimated the criteria currently apply in only five of Louisiana's 64 parishes, which are the equivalent of counties in other states. New Orleans (contiguous with Orleans Parish) fits the criteria but Mayor LoToya Cantrell has made clear bars will remain closed for the time being. None of the state's other large cities are in parishes that meet the two-week, 5% threshold. Those parishes, based on Friday's health department statistics, are Plaquemine, St. John the Baptist, Jefferson Davis and Bienville.

Hurricane-hit farmers get more time to ask for COVID-19 aid

ALEXANDRIA, La. | Louisiana farmers and ranchers in areas hit by Hurricane Laura have four more weeks to apply for a COVID-19 aid program.

For most farmers and ranchers around the country, Friday was the deadline to apply for the commodity program called the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

But the deadline is now Oct. 9 in parts of Louisiana where the hurricane hit Aug. 27, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency office in Alexandria, Louisiana, said in a news release Friday.

Organized opposition to weed legalization in Montana emerges

MISSOULA, Mont. | Organized opposition to the legalization of recreational marijuana in Montana has emerged, the Missoulian newspaper reported on Thursday.

The Montana Contractors Association, a builder's group, opposes two state measures to legalize recreational weed on the grounds that it would result in unsafe workplaces and a reduction in the number of available workers.

Another organization against legalizing recreational marijuana, Wrong for Montana, was formed this week and focuses on what it calls the “societal ills” of the drug, which has been legalized for recreational use in 11 states.

The contractor association's CEO, David Smith, said it would help finance Wrong for Montana's efforts.

In Montana, Initiative 190 and Constitutional Initiative 118 will be on the ballot for the Nov. 3 election.

- From AP reports