Home News COVID-19 Situation Requests for federal relief funds exceed city’s award, EDC director says

Requests for federal relief funds exceed city’s award, EDC director says

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The economic development group assisting with applications for coronavirus relief grants from the federal government told the city’s Finance Committee the requests far exceed the $1.3 million the city was allocated.

The committee discussed the grants at its meeting Thursday morning in considering a resolution that would authorize partnership with the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corp. in administering the funds and directing the city manager or a designee to ensure the funds are awarded by the Dec. 30 deadline.

Councilors Jason Perry, Juan Oropesa and Margaret Kennard voted to send the resolution to the Roswell City Council at its October meeting. Councilor Jacob Roebuck abstained from voting or discussion, explaining his business has applied for some of the funds.

Mike Espiritu, president of the EDC, told committee members the 115 applications for the Small Business Continuity Grants total about $3.3 million.

This past week, the EDC has been going through the applications to ensure each has the required documentation to prove the expenses are related to the pandemic, Espiritu said. The grants can be given for business continuity expenses such as payroll, mortgage or insurance, and for business redesign that would include retrofitting a business to keep it operating in the pandemic. Those expenses could include purchasing and installing plexiglass barricades or tents for patios, he said.

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“We have narrowed it down to about 80 who have provided all the documents that are required by the state and the city to ensure we meet auditable transactions,” Espiritu said.

“We have validated $1.8 million with verifiable receipts of purchase and provable transactions. So it’s a big difference.

“However, it’s still higher than the $1.3 million awarded, so there’s going to have to be some decisions made by the city on how they want to award those funds to those businesses,” he said.

Espiritu said one bright light in the situation is that Chaves County also received $337,500 for the business funds.

“The county has discussed the possibility of being able to push some of their funds to the city businesses. That’s a discussion I think the city needs to have with the county on how they want to do that,” he said.

Mayor Dennis Kintigh asked who would be accountable if, after the funds are distributed, the state determines an application was not valid.

Kintigh said his understanding is the funds will be reimbursed by the state after the city pays it out.

“If there is an error in allocation of funds to a business, what entity will be responsible? We are relying on the EDC staff to do this, which is fine, but if there’s an error, does the city have to absorb this, or will it be the EDC or is there a shared agreement?” Kintigh asked.

He said there have been instances of the state clawing back money from the city, such as when the state overpays on gross receipts taxes.

“I just think there needs to be some type or responsibility/liability in this awards process,” he said.

Juan Fuentes, administrative services director for the city, said the city would be responsible.

“The agreement for these funds are with the city of Roswell. So ultimately we are responsible for making sure we follow the state guidelines,” he said.

“That’s why we’re doing our due diligence in making sure all the documentation is submitted,” he said.

Oropesa asked if, in that kind of instance, would the small business be required to repay the funds.

“That is correct. That’s part of the process and the documentation that the state is asking us to make sure we have on file,” Fuentes said.

Businesses that have applied for the funds have to certify the information is true and correct, he said, and the city is making sure the applicants have business registration licenses on file.

“There’s a lot of information we are asking them to provide us so we are not just providing an agreement or award to a business that does not exist,” he said.

Additionally, the information will be checked when it is submitted to the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration, he said.

“When we have the first packet of information for reimbursement, it’s going to require walking through that information with our representative at DFA and to make sure everything has been covered. I can tell you she’s very meticulous in what the information needs to be submitted. I will be working with her very closely to make sure we reduce as much of that possibility of exposure happening to us,” Fuentes said.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.