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Struggling NM businesses face a knockout punch

In a recent letter 17 of New Mexico’s 109 mayors supported all of Gov. Lujan Grisham’s actions in fighting COVID-19. They declared their commitment to “stay the course until this deadly disease is fully defeated.”

We appreciate those mayors and the concerns they have for their communities. We also share the desire to protect the lives of those in our cities and throughout our great state. It is wrong, however, to assert that by advocating for a responsible reopening of our economies that we do not care about the health and safety of our constituents.

First and foremost, we want all New Mexicans to be healthy and safe. That’s our top priority; however, due to the governor’s lack of strategy, New Mexico is suffering. For more than a month now every New Mexican and business owner has agreed to the shared sacrifice ordered by the governor. We have all acknowledged that by working together we can minimize and hopefully defeat COVID-19. Yet, it seems like local businesses are the ones doing most of the “shared sacrifice.”

We have watched while customers flock into the big-box stores – out-of-state, giant corporations – while locally owned small businesses fold and the unemployment rate skyrockets.

These 17 mayors say “nothing has changed” since social distancing began. Wrong. Every day shoppers crowd into the big-box stores. By the end of that business day, the money they spent in those stores leaves the state forever. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been deposited into out-of-state bank accounts for these major corporations, never to return to New Mexico. Ever.

Meantime, our local businesses are collapsing, closing and local economies may never recover. We can responsibly have social distancing at all businesses. The rules need to be fair. The 17 mayors stress to keep the governor’s course, that a change would “be as if a boxer dropped his fists and raised his chin in the middle of a round.” Let’s clarify: New Mexico is about to be TKO’d.

Small businesses are the heartbeat of our communities. Many of these mom-and-pop businesses – restaurants, bars, salons and gyms – remain shuttered, tens of thousands seek unemployment benefits, and the trickle-down impact of closed doors has put our state’s operating budget in a free fall. Add the oil prices crash and the total stoppage of tourism and you have an economic and fiscal health catastrophe developing in New Mexico.

Our state budget has been hit hard – recent official estimates say we may have a $1.5 to $2 billion shortfall. In their letter, those 17 mayors stated there’s a temporary cost to our economy. But some families have lost everything, and many of New Mexico’s most fragile Main Streets no longer show vestiges of economic life. This current course by the governor demonstrates little leadership and offers no carefully crafted long-term strategy. People who live in counties with no cases of COVID-19 are forced to drive into population centers where they face exposure. We are nearing the point that not moving forward with an economic plan from city, state and federal leaders would be a dereliction of duty.

It is time now to lay out the plan to reopen. Yes, we agree with the other mayors that we’re all in this together, but we need responsible and fair decisions from the Roundhouse, and a sensible, coordinated strategy that truly considers our state’s future.

Tell us your plan, governor, or we’ll soon see a KO.

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