ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Having set aside $10 million in COVID-19 relief money, the city of Albuquerque has the capacity to give $10,000 grants to a thousand different businesses.
But that many have yet to come calling.
With two of three application windows already closed, the city has received 823 applications for grants meant to help small businesses hurt by the pandemic. The bulk – 611 – came in the first application wave in October, city Economic Development Director Synthia Jaramillo told the Albuquerque City Council Monday night. Another 212 arrived during a second application window.
Businesses still have one more opportunity to apply; the third and final application window runs from Dec. 7-11.
Councilor Brook Bassan – who, with Trudy Jones, proposed the program – said she expected much more demand, but worries that businesses have been too busy simply trying to survive to seek out this kind of assistance.
“I thought surely we would get at least 1,200 applications,” she said in an interview. “I didn’t think it was going to be that difficult to get (that level of interest).”
The council approved the $10 million in September and this week loosened some program requirements. The program initially limited businesses to $10,000 in aggregate COVID-19-related assistance, disqualifying some who previously had received grants from other government entities, like Bernalillo County. Of the 823 total applicants, Jaramillo said the city ruled 113 ineligible for that reason. Forty other applicants were disqualified for other reasons.
The council on Monday voted to eliminate that cap so those 113 can go back in the queue, though the city must still give funding priority to businesses who have not received assistance elsewhere. That’s assuming there is more demand than supply, which currently is not the case.
The city is using its federal CARES Act coronavirus relief funding to pay for the grants, and the funding must be used by Dec. 30. Should the program not exhaust its $10 million, unspent money would revert to the federal government.
A city spokeswoman said officials still expect to get all the money out.
Jaramillo told the council the city is still working to review the applications that arrived in the first two cycles.
As of Monday, the city had issued 97 grants and approved another 42, she said.
To qualify, businesses must have 50 or fewer full-time employees (or the part-time equivalent), have current business registration with the city and have been in operation for at least a year, among other requirements.
For more information, call 311 or go online to cabq.gov/economicdevelopment.