Time running out for small-business relief grants - Albuquerque Journal

Time running out for small-business relief grants

Jaclyn Behringer, general manager at the Santa Fe Climbing Center, sits at the front desk of the empty climbing gym. The business received a grant through the city from the CARES Act. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Almost immediately, the COVID-19 pandemic began wreaking havoc on local businesses in Santa Fe, due in part to state-mandated restrictions or more residents choosing to stay at home for their own safety.

Hundreds lost their jobs and 88 businesses in Santa Fe shut their doors for good in the first five months of the pandemic.

And despite the economic packages made available to small businesses, local governments have spent only a tiny portion of economic relief money so far, leaving them less than six weeks to spend the rest.

Now – as cases and shutdowns skyrocket statewide – local businesses have the chance to stop some of the financial bleeding, even if only temporarily.

In September, the city of Santa Fe, Santa Fe County and town of Edgewood were jointly awarded $3.6 million of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding by the state to distribute as grants to struggling local businesses. Dozens have applied so far.

Through the program, titled Small Business and Nonprofit Stabilization Program businesses within Santa Fe County can now apply for a maximum of $15,000 in relief grants. Many already have.

Alex Fitzgerald, an economic development specialist for the county, said the city and county have systems in place to prioritize which businesses receive grants should applications exceed current funding.

However, he also said officials are not really concerned about that happening. In fact, there’s greater concern that not all of the $3.6 million will be spent in time.

Similar to other CARES Act funds received by local governments, the small-business grants are subject to a Dec. 30 deadline, after which no more can be distributed. Fitzgerald said they’ve distributed $400,000 to 26 businesses in the area thus far. Most received the full $15,000 as part of that grant.

With less than six weeks remaining and only 11% of the funds allocated to businesses, it’s unknown how much will go left unspent by the end of the year.

“We’re in the middle of it right now,” Fitzgerald said, adding they still have another 60 applications to sort through.

Fitzgerald and Liz Camacho, who works for the city’s Office of Economic Development, said the primary difficulty has been making more businesses aware of the grants and that not enough have been applying.

“It’s very much a real concern for us,” Fitzgerald said of not meeting the deadline.

With the state recently adding more restrictions and shutdowns on certain businesses, there’s a belief that more money will be allocated in the coming weeks, he said.

The grants are not available to every business that applies. They must have fewer than 50 employees, an annual revenue less than $2 million and a year-to-year revenue loss of at least 25%.

All those requirements demand extensive amounts of paperwork and records in each application, a not insignificant task for many.

Kim Brown, president of local nonprofit Girl’s Inc. of Santa Fe, is no stranger to applying for grants, which often requires a lot of work.

“I don’t think any grant process is typically user-friendly,” she said. “That was definitely complicated, but not unusually complicated.”

In order to ease the application process, officials have started hosting twice-a-week webinars – one in English, the other in Spanish – to answer questions from small-business owners.

Girl’s Inc. of Santa Fe, which provides mentoring and educational opportunities for young girls in the area, has seen its revenue decline by $100,000 since the start of the pandemic, as events such as summer camp had to be postponed.

Brown said the $15,000 in CARES Act funding they received, while not a long-term solution, will mostly go toward retaining staff members.

“It’s a kind of drop in the bucket … but I am glad it’s going to small businesses,” she said.

Even a relatively small amount of $15,000 can go a long way in helping a business.

Andre Wiltenberg, owner of the Santa Fe Climbing Center, poses in his empty climbing gym. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Andre Wiltenburg, owner of Santa Fe Climbing Center, said his business received the full $15,000 they applied for and will use it on his employees’ salaries.

“This money is basically already spent,” he said in a deadpan chuckle.

Like many businesses, Wiltenburg’s had to shut down completely during the governor’s most recent stay-at-home order. He said membership dues and virtual classes have helped during the pandemic, but that not having anyone in the climbing gym does hurt revenues.

Bottles of sanitizer are spread around the Santa Fe Climbing Center. While it was open, climbers had to disinfect their hands and shoes before using the wall. The climbing gym is currently closed to the public. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

“All the loans have been spent … but we’re still struggling,” he said, adding he’s hoping more loans or grants will be allotted to small businesses.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced plans for a special legislative session to take place this week, during which legislators are expected to provide some sort of financial relief for businesses struggling across the state.

Home » Journal North » Journal North Recent News » Time running out for small-business relief grants

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages


Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
New Mexico Finance Authority launches program to rehabilitate homes
ABQnews Seeker
New Mexico Finance Authority launches ... New Mexico Finance Authority launches program to rehabilitate homes.
Vara bringing a taste of Spain with its Tinto ...
ABQnews Seeker
The 2020 vintage of Tinto Especial ... The 2020 vintage of Tinto Especial focuses on Spanish influences from the Catalonia region.
Singer-songwriter Logan Ledger to open for Vincent Neil Emerson
ABQnews Seeker
Logan Ledger's upcoming album, "Golden State" ... Logan Ledger's upcoming album, "Golden State" is due out on Sept. 8, but he's hitting the road opening for Vincent Neil Emerson.
Documentary looks at the crucial role libraries play in ...
ABQnews Seeker
"Library Stories: Books on the Backroads" ... "Library Stories: Books on the Backroads" will air at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 15, on New Mexico PBS.
Lobo Mazza-Downie runs to All-America status at NCAA Championship ...
ABQnews Seeker
University of New Mexico runner Amelia ... University of New Mexico runner Amelia Mazza-Downie finished fourth on Thursday night in the women's 10,000-meter final at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field ...
Do-it-all Montes reaching a new level as Isotope hitter
ABQnews Seeker
Loosely translated, "Coco" means coconut in ... Loosely translated, "Coco" means coconut in Spanish. In 2023 minor league baseball terms, with Isotope Coco Montes it's synonymous with raking.
Socorro businesses, locals brace for Bandidos funeral
From the newspaper
Town's liquor establishments are expected to ... Town's liquor establishments are expected to be closed and law enforcement is on heightened alert ahead of weekend funeral for biker who died in ...
Editorial: CYFD must learn from tragic failures, re-evaluate policies
From the Editorial Board: The governor ... From the Editorial Board: The governor and CYFD need to examine the child welfare agency's policies regarding drug use in the home, tracking abuse, ...
Albuquerque Regional Economic Alliance, CBRE highlight metro area’s diverse ...
ABQnews Seeker
"This report, updated annually, has become ... "This report, updated annually, has become one of our top economic development publications used to articulate our value proposition and market the region to ...