Federal / State Benefits

Things appear fairly normal these days; businesses are open with no capacity restrictions and NFL stadiums are packed with barely a mask to be seen—though New Mexico still has mask requirements.

But 2020 is not forgotten by small businesses or the New Mexico Finance Authority.

“I think the most significant point is 16 months of financial loss will take years to recover from,” said Melodi Wyss, owner of Rock Paper Scissor SalonSpa in DeVargas Center.

Wyss last year received a $25,000 Small Business CARES Relief Grant issued by the New Mexico Finance Authority and this year was awarded $59,000 in NMFA’s Business Recovery Grant Program. This is similar to last year’s program but funded with $200 million in state money rather than federal COVID-19 relief funds.

Wyss noted her salon was closed for four months last year by COVID-19 restrictions and had to operate at 25 percent capacity for the next 11 months.

“My main goal is that I can maintain business as normal as possible,” Wyss said. “The grant is allowing me to maintain a facade of normalcy.”

NMFA started offering the Business Recovery Grant in May with $46 million so far allotted to 900 small businesses with fewer than 75 employees that meet certain job creation or restoration goals. The program’s ninth and final round started Oct. 12 with about $150 million remaining and a Dec. 7 deadline for applications.

“There is a lot of opportunity for businesses and nonprofits,” NMFA CEO Marquita Russel said. “The way you qualify for a grant is net new jobs.”

That could be adding jobs or bringing jobs back that were eliminated. Businesses have a choice of Dec. 31, 2020, or March 31, 2021, as a baseline date. All job increases after those dates and expected to be added through June 2023 count toward how high the grant will be up to $100,000, she said.

“Restoring hours [of existing employees who had hours cut] counts for job creation,” Russel said.

The grants come through the state’s Local Economic Development Act program, which is based on awarding grants on job creation to avoid the state prohibition of gifting state funds to private businesses. The grants are paid out quarterly based on businesses meeting job creation metrics each quarter.

“This can only be used for rent, lease and mortgage payments,” Russel said. “That frees up money for other things.”

City Shoe & Boot Repair received $35,200 last year and will receive $34,920 this round from NMFA.

“It’s still huge,” City Shoe owner Vincent Trujillo said about state assistance now as things have a semblance of normalcy. “We are still not where we would usually be. We’re in a period of the busiest time of year. We are at 70 percent of where we usually are.”

Trujillo said City Shoe teetered on the brink of collapse in the early months of the pandemic.

“Quite honestly, had we not gotten something back then, we would have gone out of business,” he said. “We were hanging on. We were down on our knees. What this grant is going to do is allow us to retain our employees and hire people.”

The NMFA’s Business Recovery Grant Program requires the business to be in New Mexico, have fewer than 75 employees, have had layoffs or reduced hours caused by the pandemic and have documents showing a decline in revenue from 2019 to 2020. Applicants also have to be current on state and local tax payments.

Required documents include a 2019 or 2020 federal business tax return; evidence of revenue decline between 2019 and 2020; copy of the rental, lease or mortgage agreement term sheet that evidences past, current and future payments due; proof of rent, lease or mortgage payment; government-issued photo ID and copies of DWS ES903A forms to show the lowest and highest number of employees at the business.

Applications can be found at nmfinance.com/recovery. Russel wants to get the first payments out by the end of December.

“The average grant award is $50,000, and we’ve streamlined the application process to make it as user-friendly as possible,” Russel said. “We have a team of funding coordinators available to help businesses through the application process and get New Mexico’s businesses the financial assistance they need.”

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