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Some small business grant awards less than hoped for

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico cities and counties finally know how much money they’ll be able to award to small businesses through a state grant program established with $50 million in federal funding – but it may be less than some recipients were hoping for.

All told, 66 New Mexico counties, cities, towns and other municipalities applied for and will receive funds through the program, which will then be distributed to local businesses in those communities, the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration announced Tuesday.

Henry Valdez, spokesman for the state finance department, said the program gives local governments flexibility to help the small businesses that need it most in each community.

“We felt it was better for the counties and municipalities to distribute those funds, because they know those businesses better than we do,” Valdez told the Journal.

However, the municipalities collectively requested $106 million – more than twice the funding available through the program.

As a result, many local governments received less than half of the funding they applied for.

“When you look at the total that was requested, I think they had to make some tough decisions,” said Debbi Moore, president and CEO of the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce.

Applications from cities and counties were due in the middle of August. Later that month, the state finance agency developed a list of five criteria, including the number of small businesses in each community that closed or were unable to reopen due to the pandemic, that guided how the money was allocated.

Grant totals ranged from $11,183 on the low end – which Tijeras and Mora County each received – up to $5.44 million, which went to Las Cruces.

Some communities received just over one-third of the funding they requested. Others, including Los Alamos and San Juan counties, received more than half of their requested total, according to state data.

Devin Neeley, spokesman for San Juan County – which received just over $1.06 million through the program – said the community was grateful for any assistance after being hammered by the virus earlier this year.

“We hope that these dollars will work to rebuild our very hard-hit businesses in this area,” Neeley said.

San Juan County and other municipalities are still waiting for additional guidelines from the state finance department on how the funding may be allocated to businesses in their communities. Moore said she’s hopeful those rules will be available by the end of the week.

Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh said his city, which received about $1.35 million through the program, said he wants to see the state provide some flexibility in its guidelines, as the pandemic has affected different communities in different ways.

“The more flexibility we have, I think the better we are at serving our communities,” Kintigh said.

 

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