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County seeks more business grant applicants

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Bill Williams, Chaves County Public Services director, seen during an April 2019 meeting, said the county might not have any money left over to put into the "city kitty" for small business relief grants, but it will use its funding for city businesses if an excess of county funds exists. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Chaves County still has more than $310,000 in federal relief grants to provide to businesses, so county administrators and managers with the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corp. are meeting with business owners located outside Roswell and releasing information to encourage them to apply.

Some of the county money might also be used for businesses in Roswell if the county finds after its efforts that county business applications won’t use all of the county funds, said Bill Williams, Chaves County Public Services director.

“We want to do a concerted push to reach people outside the town,” Williams said. “Of course, if there is anything left, we intend to get it out to the people where it belongs.”

The county received a total of $337,750 for businesses as part of the state government’s $178 million distribution to tribal and local governments of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) funding.

The state received $1.25 billion in CARES money from the U.S. Treasury in March, with Bernalillo County and the city of Albuquerque allocated some of that amount directly. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced in late July that tribal governments could apply for up to $28 million, while counties and cities could apply for another $150 million. Of the local government funding, $50 million was to be reserved to help small businesses.

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The county had applied for $1 million, which county officials said that it had intended to use entirely for a business grant. Instead, it heard on Sept. 1 that it had received $537,500 to cover county COVID-related expenses and losses and $337,750 for the Small Business Continuity Grants.

Melissa Juarez, program manager for the local Economic Development Corp., said that five county businesses applied for the grant initially as part of the local government’s funding application process with the state, while three progressed to step two after the county received the money.

Step two requires additional documentation from businesses, Juarez explained, including receipts. Receipts for business continuity funding would be for such items as rent, mortgage, utilities, insurance, marketing and payroll. Receipts for business redesign funds would be for expenses related to creating COVID-safe business operations. That could include purchasing technology for remote operations or buying personal protective equipment, plexiglass shields or sanitation equipment.

Right now, the expenses and costs needed to have occurred from March 1 to June 30.

The total receipts submitted by the three businesses was for $27,228, Juarez said, which leaves $310,462 still available for businesses in the county.

Williams said that he has personally been visiting businesses outside Roswell to talk to them about the grant money. He said radio announcements also are planned and that information will be posted on the county’s social media pages. Juarez said information also will be available on the EDC website.

The EDC also has been working with the city of Roswell on the business grants. The city received $1,351,000 for small business grants, as well as more than $5.56 million for its own losses and expenses.

Juarez said about 115 businesses from the city applied, with verified receipts of $1.9 million from the 80 businesses within the city limits that proceeded to step two.

She said receipts have been submitted to county and city finance directors, with final funding decisions to be made by those governing bodies.

The city could use all of its funding to cover the March-June expenses, or they could decide to fund only a portion of the requests now and use remaining funds for a second series of business allocations to cover expenses and costs from July 1 to Dec. 30.

To be eligible for funding, small businesses must be based in New Mexico, been in operation prior to March 2019, have 50 or fewer employees, have annual revenues of $2 million or less and have experienced significant business disruptions due to COVID-19.

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