“Congress passed the bipartisan CARES Act to deliver critical relief to our nation in this moment of crisis,” Congressman Ben Ray Lujan said. “It is clear, however, that we need to get more resources to our small businesses, our hospitals and frontline health care workers, and our local, state, and tribal governments.
“We also need to provide additional SNAP funding to ensure that no family in New Mexico goes hungry during this crisis.
“The Trump administration has struggled to implement the CARES Act, especially the Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program. Too many community lenders, mom-and-pop small businesses and underserved communities are being left behind,” the congressman said.
“Small businesses need more funding from the SBA loan and grant programs, and these programs need reforms and greater transparency to ensure that New Mexican small businesses get the support they need and deserve.
“The pandemic has dealt a serious blow to our public health and economy. While we would all like to get back to normal, there must be a substantial increase in the production in rapid testing and personal protective equipment. That is why we need more resources now.”
The governor’s office took responsibillity for a slow roll-out of state programs.
“We will take responsibility for state systems being behind the ball in responding to this pandemic,” Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said. “We are fixing these systems and getting assistance out to New Mexicans as expeditiously as we can. As we navigate this public health crisis, we are mindful every day of the incredible strain on our workers and businesses. We will be proactive and responsive.”
The N.M. Department of Workforce Solutions reports that 55,140 workers were receiving unemployment benefits with $24.2 million paid out during the week ending April 17. The agency has 234 employees, in addition to workers from eight other state agencies. providing telephone assistance.
“At this time the Department of Workforce Solutions is constantly focused on how we can get financial resources to New Mexicans more quickly,” Ricky Serna, deputy secretary for Workforce Solutions said. “This effort includes partnerships with other state agencies who have come together to answer more calls, extend hours of operations, and process more claims. Each day we hear the sense of urgency directly from thousands of claimants and we will do everything possible to ensure we connect them with their benefits.”
He pointed out that the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, an additional benefit of $600 per week per person, is in effect until July 31, 2020. The benefit will automatically be added to the regular unemployment amount; individuals do not need to apply separately or give any additional information.
For business owners, two state programs have been authorized through the Economic Development Department: the COVID-19 Loan Guarantee Program and the no-interest LEDA loan program, which targets economic base manufacturing businesses.
Lenders participating in the COVID-19 Loan Guarantee Program have approved $1.7 million in loan money so far to 35 businesses with 326 employees in Bernalillo, Colfax, Curry, Sandoval, Santa Fe, Union, and Valencia counties.
Loan proceeds are flexible and can be used for (but are not limited to) working capital, inventory, and payroll. Borrowers must work with their lender to file an application, but can apply online. For more information contact EDDFinance@state.nm.us.
The Economic Development Department has also created a website to link customers to their favorite local businesses during this time of economic hardship. The “Buy for Tomorrow Today” site includes over 500 businesses throughout the state and encourages shoppers to purchase items for delivery or pick up today, or to buy vouchers for goods or services to be used when the business reopens.
“We know these programs are an important piece of the puzzle for business owners,” Cabinet Secretary Alicia J. Keyes said. “They are providing some stability and bridge funding until federal assistance arrives.”
The State has also launched the NM Recovery Fund, a $100-million lending program for medium-sized companies with money from the Severance Tax Permanent Fund. The program was approved by the State Investment Council and is managed by Sun Mountain Capital. For more information and an application go to sunmountaincapital.com.
Secretary Keyes emphasized that the bulk of money available to New Mexico is from the Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), which authorizes $349 billion for the U.S. Small Business Administration in grants and loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
Preliminary information released by the SBA on April 13 showed that 5,365 New Mexico business had received PPP loan approval, with total lending in the state at $1.1 billion. The PPP has currently reached its loan capacity and is pending further Congressional action.
The State is also urging business owners to apply for the federal Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program under which a small business can borrow up to $2 million with an immediate grant advance up to $10,000.