Home News Local News State business grant program starts next week

State business grant program starts next week


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Program authorized by Legislature during special session

Some New Mexico small businesses financially hurt by the coronavirus crisis are eligible for up to $50,000 in grant money from the state, with the online application process expected to be functional early next week.

Applications will be taken until noon on Friday, Dec. 18.

“The sooner they apply, the sooner they will know,” said Marquita Russel, chief executive officer of the New Mexico Finance Authority, which is administering the grant program.

She explained that the Finance Authority will process batches of applications around the 10th, the 15th and the 18th. While money will be available on the 18th, she said, “the sooner you apply, the greater your chances of funding.”

The CARES Continuity Grants program was authorized by the New Mexico Legislature during the November special session. The funds come from a portion of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Emergency Services (CARES) monies provided to the state.

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The New Mexico Economic Development Department will hold a webinar today at 12:30 p.m. Registration can be completed at https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/4162027955441727759.

Russel said the webinar will give details about the application process and how the money will be disbursed.

She also said that a video of the webinar will be posted later on the Finance Authority website, www.nmfinance.com, and that applicants are encouraged to check the site frequently for updated information.

House Bill 1, signed Nov. 25 by the governor, indicates that the money is meant for nonprofits, veterans organizations or businesses that are at least 51% owned by New Mexico residents and that have 100 or fewer employees.

A legislative analysis of the bill indicated that the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions has reported that 94% of New Mexico employers have 100 or fewer people on their payrolls.

While the legislation requires that the grants be dispersed to all regions of the state, it also specifies that priority is to be given to enterprises in hospitality or leisure industries or those that have experienced “severe” financial hardships due to the pandemic or related state public health orders. As grants, the funds awarded do not have to be repaid.

Russel said the grant program is operating under different lending guidance from the CARES business grant program that was run by cities and counties earlier this year.

“The size of the employee base will determine the amount of the grant you get,” she said.

The number of employees will be determined by one of the quarterly reports that employers have submitted to the Workforce Solutions Department from March 2019 to December 2020.

Applicants also will be asked for data about their financial losses of the pandemic, but will not have to provide documents about expenditures.

“We are not reimbursing for specific expenses,” Russel said. “We are reimbursing for impact.”

The legislature and other groups acknowledge that the amount available from the program likely will be only a drop in the bucket of business and nonprofit needs.

“Although the program would be capped at $100 million, it appears applications for funds will likely exceed the appropriated amount, requiring NMFA to use its discretion in awarding the grants,” the legislative analysis stated.

A local economic developer involved in processing applications for the city and county grants said businesses need more financial help.

“This additional grant will help our local small businesses, especially in the hospitality and leisure industries,” said Mike Espiritu, president of the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corp. “However, I believe the need is so great for businesses closed due to state health orders that this grant barely scratches the surface. Although it is better than nothing, I am hopeful there will be additional monies to help out our business community through this crisis in the near future.”

Russel said that hospitality and leisure sectors often are big contributors to city and county budgets.

“A lot of communities, their gross receipts are based on what they call visitor spend, money coming from the outside,” she said.

A report by the New Mexico Economic Development Department indicated that Chaves County’s food services and lodging sectors reported $6.13 million less in gross receipts taxes for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020 (April to June 2020) compared to fourth-quarter fiscal 2019.

For the state, the decrease was $382.68 million.

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