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Federal Aid Package Offers State Relief

The state is seeing about an 150 percent increase in unemployment claims; small businesses are shuttering and sputtering before our eyes. There is some relief on the way, and it will get here by the end of this time-warped year.

What’s In It For Me?

There is $194 million earmarked for one-time $1,200 checks to unemployed people who are or were on unemployment. This should be out by mid-December. Another $100 million goes to a new grant program intended for small local businesses and nonprofit groups. Small businesses that have 100 or fewer employees can apply for the money bumps of up to $50,000. Those needing help with housing, whether homeless or needing to pay rent or mortgage, can apply for some of the $15 million set aside for these needs. People who did not get the federal stimulus checks for reasons such as immigration status can get up to $750 to help. Food banks around the state will split $5 million to help feed the growing number of hungry New Mexicans. When the vaccines are available, there is $10 million set aside from the general fund to cover getting the COVID-19 vaccine distributed and to help with other COVID-19 costs such as PPE costs.

How To Get Some?

The New Mexico Finance Authority will administer the grant money flowing to the small businesses. This serious department already administers lots of dollars for other programs. A representative from the Authority has said the department members are still working the details but will have an application available online the week of Dec. 7. There will be three rounds of grant awards that will be distributed by the end of the year. If that money is not distributed, the feds will take it back.

The money comes with a bit of a narrow focus. Small businesses that are considered hospitality and leisure will be prioritized. There are promised safeguards in place to make sure there is equal distribution across the state. The money does not need to be paid back, but the Authority said it will make sure the money is used for its intended purposes.

Keep an eye on this website for the application at nmfinance.com, because the window of time will be short. A peek at one of the current applications shows that folks wanting a piece of this pie better have their document ducks in a row. This chunk of CARES federal money has to be spent by the Dec. 31 or the long arm of the feds will take it back.

What’s Going On?

Hunger among our own is increasing. You can put lipstick on it and call it food insecurity, but here in our state a lowball estimate says 1 in 3 children and 1 in 5 grown-ups are hungry all day, every day. Some of our friends, family and neighbors have slipped into poverty due to the pandemic.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has said this relief package is a start and that the work to relieve all New Mexican is not done. It is expected that when the Legislature meets next there will be more aid packages as legislatures are dreaming up bills to help rebuild the state’s economy which in theory will help so many folks with a rumble in their bellies.

During the one day special legislative session last week,  there was a failed effort to give low wage essential workers a one-time boost of $600. This type of financial aid is expected to be back on the floor of the Roundhouse during its January session. It was turned down because of the logistics in getting this chunk of money out during the next few weeks at the same time as the federal money. Gov. Tough As Nails, as Lujan Grisham has been good-naturedly called, said she has no doubt that the incoming Biden administration will have all kinds of help headed down the pipe to all those struggling.

Not Your Mama’s Red or Green

In order to get businesses safely back and fully opened, the gov. has implemented a county-by-county, red-to-green reopening plan. Only one county, Los Alamos, was out of the red at press time. The city on the hill is a town full of science people, so it is not surprising that it is leading New Mexico’s 33 counties in containing the virus. Check out cvprovider.nmhealth.org to keep up with what is happening with our state’s reopening efforts.

A Thanksgiving aid package of $330 million will soon be in the pockets of unemployed New Mexicans and small businesses struggling with staying alive during the COVID-19 pandemic. [ ]

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