Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Mayor Alan Webber said the American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress earlier this month will serve as a “booster shot” for Santa Fe families and businesses as the capital city and the rest of the state bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s going to make all the difference in the world as we reopen,” said Webber, whose city and the rest of Santa Fe County on Wednesday moved into the least restrictive turquoise level of the governor’s color-coded system for reopening. “People are thirsty for the fun and joy that comes with the spring and summer in Santa Fe. And we can provide that with safety, because of the extra dollars and support that is sent our way through the rescue plan.”
Webber’s comments came during a Wednesday news conference that included U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján and Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernandez, Democrats who both voted for the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill later signed into law by President Joe Biden.
Together, the trio hit on some highlights from the stimulus bill, and ways in which it can assist local families and businesses.
The city of Santa Fe will receive $15.3 million in direct payments from the rescue plan, while Santa Fe County will receive $29.2 million.
Some of the funding will go toward getting people vaccinated, which Luján said was critical to a successful recovery.
“Getting more vaccines into people’s arms is going to help us defeat COVID-19, it’s going to get us in front of COVID and only allow us to make progress,” he said.
But the funding goes well beyond vaccines. There’s additional money for the Paycheck Protection Program that helped keep some businesses afloat, funding for women’s shelters and behavioral health providers, as well as money specifically for restaurants and families with children. Families with children can also apply for a child tax credit, which pays them $3,000 per child, $3,600 for children under 6.
“Think of what that means for families in New Mexico – and that’s in addition to direct (stimulus) payments,” Luján said.
Families can also get funding assistance to pay for housing, utilities and even child care.
“Our parents can’t get back to work unless they have child care,” Leger Fernandez said.
The rescue plan can also lower health insurance costs for families, Leger Fernandez said. She said a family of four making $90,000 per year could see their monthly premium reduced by as much as $200 per month.
“If you’re in need of health care, you are now going to be able to have the insurance coverage to be able to go to your doctor,” she said.
The city of Santa Fe’s economy relies heavily on tourism and Webber said there are already positive signs that tourists are returning to town. But he stressed the importance of restaurants, museums and entertainment venues opening safely, or else restrictions on them will be tightened once again.
“As we get to turquoise,” he said, “we want to stay open.”
Luján said the Restaurant Revitalization Fund that’s part of the package will help restaurants with gross receipts of less than $500,000 per year in 2019 keep their doors open and employees on the payroll. During the first few weeks, restaurants owned by women, veterans, and socially and economically disadvantaged people will get priority, he said.
Luján also noted that businesses that had received funding from the Paycheck Protection Program through the CARES Act can have those loans forgiven under the rescue plan. He likened the new funding to a grant, as opposed to a loan that has to be paid back.
Leger Fernandez said small businesses should look into the Community Navigator Pilot Program. It will help them determine what programs they’ll be able to qualify for and what tax breaks may be available to them.
She said her office will hold a workshop on April 5 that will provide information to small businesses and families about what assistance might be available to them.
“We want to make sure that everybody is able to take advantage of all the benefits that are in the American Rescue Plan,” Leger Fernandez said.