Finance

Lujan Grisham to announce $50M for small-business grants | Coronavirus

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham plans to allocate $50 million in federal stimulus funds to set up local grant programs for small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The money will be taken from $150 million in funding for local governments approved as part of a budget solvency bill signed by Lujan Grisham late last month, the Governor’s Office said.

“Ideally, this money will get out to businesses that weren’t going to make it otherwise,” said Dan Schlegel, Lujan Grisham’s small-business and entrepreneurship adviser. “It’ll be beneficial and crucial for many businesses.”

The governor plans to announce the grant program Monday. 

The announcement comes as small businesses across New Mexico are laying off workers and struggling to survive since the state mandated partial or total closures through its public health restrictions.

While legislators approved a small-business loan fund during the June special session, the new program will mark the first time New Mexico has given grants to small businesses during the pandemic.

New Mexico will join other states that have launched similar grant programs since the pandemic began. Idaho and Mississippi, for instance, also have set up grant programs using federal funding.

New Mexico cities and counties will be able to apply to the state’s Department of Finance and Administration to have their coronavirus-related spending reimbursed with federal stimulus funding.

As they do so, they also will be able to apply for money to set up their own small-business grant programs, and each local government could then make the grants to businesses, Schlegel said. Municipalities would determine maximum grant amounts.

He added the state will provide local governments with guidelines for the program, such as giving priority to businesses with a longer track record and putting measures in place to guard against fraud.

The grant money could be a life raft for businesses that need to rearrange their business models to survive during the pandemic but don’t have the funds to do so on their own, Schlegel said.

After allowing dine-in restaurants, gyms and other establishments to reopen in early June, the governor put a hold on additional openings originally scheduled for July 1 when the state saw a spike in its COVID-19 transmission rate.

Lujan Grisham then reinstated a prohibition on indoor dining service as well as requiring out-of-state visitors to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in New Mexico.

Rob Black, president of the New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry, said a grant program could help businesses that are on the brink of bankruptcy.

“It’s very welcome,” Black said. “Doing a grant program would go a long way to helping some of those businesses that are right on the edge.”

Earlier this month, Lujan Grisham signed legislation that will offer $400 million in low-interest loans to small businesses that have endured economic damage as a result of the pandemic.

Businesses likely will be able to start applying for those loans in August, Schlegel said.

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