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Leaders plan local economic recovery task force group

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Michael Espiritu, president of the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corp.

City and county leaders are considering forming a group to help local businesses and the area economy rebound from the coronavirus emergency, an idea introduced as city officials began to discuss possible effects on government budgets.

The Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corp. plans to form a recovery task force, Michael Espiritu, the group’s president, said.

The task force would consist of representatives of the city and county government, local business and possibly other recovery specialists, he said.

“This small group … will discuss ways to prepare our community for the paths that lie ahead. Our desire is to keep people informed and provide a roadmap to get our community healthy for the future. We will be discussing a variety of topics, from community services in the city and county, to jobs and employment, among others.”

Roswell City Manager Joe Neeb mentioned the future task force during Thursday’s City Council meeting, saying that he and Mayor Dennis Kintigh saw it as one component in business recovery.

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“It is a multi-legged beast to bring back our businesses,” Neeb said.

He also discussed some of the projected impacts of the coronavirus crisis on the city’s budget. He said the city is most concerned about gross receipts taxes and is estimating at this time that GRT will decline by 15% to 25%. A steep 40% decline could be seen for July, with improvements expected after that.

While the situation is constantly changing, the city now is revising its fiscal year 2021 budget with 12.7% reductions, when taking all revenue sources into account, Neeb said.

“Over time, if this thing (coronavirus) goes away, then the economy will start to pick up and build over the year,” he told city councilors.

The city also is looking at the federal aid packages that have passed with funding earmarked for municipalities to see if any can be used locally.

Councilor Jacob Roebuck thanked local bankers for their work to help businesses during this time and talked about the possibility of Roswell losing some of its small businesses during the crisis.

“Certainly we are paying a huge price,” said Roebuck, “and the most vulnerable are the poor and small businesses, who don’t have the deep pockets.”

Economic recovery task forces have been created in various cities and states nationwide, including San Francisco, California; Dallas, Texas; and the states of Texas, Ohio and Utah.

New Mexico has formed the Economic Rapid Response Task Force, a collaboration of various state agencies. Its efforts have included the establishment of a $100 million business recovery fund, using State Investment Council funds, for medium-sized businesses. The state also created a loan guarantee program and is offering 0% interest Local Economic Development Act loans for eligible businesses through the New Mexico Economic Development Department.

Various national news reports also have indicated that the Trump Administration plans to announce an economic recovery task force this coming week.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.