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Small biz grant program deadline near

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

The hard deadline for New Mexico cities and counties to apply for the state’s $50 million small business grant program is approaching, even as some details about the program still need to be ironed out.

Midnight on Friday was the original deadline for municipalities to participate in the New Mexico Small Business Continuity Grant program, which allocates federal funding to New Mexico small businesses that have suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Debbie Romero, acting secretary of the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration, said municipalities can get the deadline extended to Wednesday if they’re struggling to put the application together on short notice.

The program, which earmarks $50 million from a federal aid package, was announced by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham July 27.

Romero said the goal is to provide local governments with flexibility to help businesses that need it the most.

“They know what businesses they have in their community,” she said. “They know which businesses are struggling.”

Rob Black, president and CEO of the New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry, said he hopes the program will let communities distribute the money in a way that fits their local needs.

“I think you’re going to have a real diversity of programs around the state,” Black said

Businesses in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County are excluded from the program, a decision that’s raised eyebrows in the local business community.

Romero said the decision was made because the city and county were among the large communities that received direct funding from the federal CARES Act.

“This is for all the other local governments that didn’t receive that funding,” Romero said.

Still, Terri Cole, president and CEO of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, said she was “surprised and disappointed” to learn about the decision. While there are other state and federal programs that Albuquerque businesses can pursue, many of them are loan programs, and Cole said many businesses are reluctant to take on more debt right now.

“It’s the kind of state-level grant-making support we’ve been advocating for since the pandemic began, and it needs to apply statewide,” Cole said.

Romero said the grants can cover a wide variety of costs, from paying employees’ salaries to helping restaurant owners set up temporary outdoor dining spaces.

Romero said the criteria for how the state will allocate the money has not been finalized, although it is expected to consider the impact of the virus in certain regions of the state.

Devin Neeley, spokesman for San Juan County, among New Mexico’s hardest-hit counties since the pandemic began, said the county submitted its application Thursday, seeking $2 million in grant funding for local small businesses.

Neeley said he was hopeful that the grant program will work in conjunction with other business-aid programs to reduce the economic impact to the county.

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