A lot can happen when elected officials work together for the benefit of small businesses within their constituencies. Through a special legislative session held in November, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the State Legislature directed $100 million of federal stimulus funds to the New Mexico Finance Authority (NMFA). These funds were put toward a program known as the Small Business CARES Relief Grant. The grant’s purpose is to provide a level of financial assistance for eligible nonprofit organizations and small businesses hardest hit by the pandemic and may be used for regular business expenses that could not be paid for without the assistance. In order to qualify, businesses must meet specific criteria.
According to the rules dictated by the grant, a small business is defined as any business with 100 or fewer employees that is experiencing financial hardships as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Relief Grant program will provide grants of up to $50,000 with a goal to have funds completely distributed by Dec. 28. It’s a Christmas miracle! Prospective grant applicants will have 11 days—starting Monday, Dec. 7 and going through Friday, Dec. 18—to submit their applications for consideration. The $100 million grant is meant to provide support to small businesses from around the state, with 40 percent of funds being allocated specifically for businesses in rural communities and the remaining 60 percent for businesses in and around metropolitan areas with populations of 50,000 or more.
Businesses are encouraged to apply early but only need to apply once. The CARES Relief Grant will not be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Rather, applications will be reviewed over three separate rounds with funds being distributed to priority businesses that can demonstrate severe economic impact in 2020 between the timeline of April 1 and Nov. 30. If the total number of applicants exceeds the total funds available, the NMFA will calculate “priority businesses” by dividing each applicant’s profit and loss by the total number of employees. If an application is not selected in the first round, it will automatically be carried forward into the second and third rounds for further review. Additionally, portions of the grant have been earmarked for disbursement to specific business categories, allotting funds for those most impacted during the pandemic. This includes:
20 percent of funds are set aside for lodging and accommodation type businesses
20 percent for food service and drinking businesses
15 percent for the arts, entertainment and recreation industry
3 percent for destination marketing organizations
2 percent for non-employer businesses
Grants will be awarded based upon the business’ number of employees. The NMFA has stated that applicants are able to use pre-COVID employment levels for the purposes of determining the grant amount. Businesses must also submit a copy of the quarterly wage report dated between March 31, 2019 and Sept. 30, 2020 to support that information. Contract employees do not count in the calculation, but part-time employees do. Any businesses that do not report wages to the Department of Workforce Solutions will only be eligible for $2,000 grants.
Applications for the Small Business CARES Relief Grant can be accessed through the NMAF website (nmfinance.com) and will be available starting Monday, Dec. 7. For now, visiting the site will help to answer FAQ and eligibility questions. If this application is anything like the Small Business Recovery Loan Fund, it will take between 30 and 60 minutes to complete and will require detailed documentation such as monthly income statements and employment history. For further assistance or information, the NMFA can be contacted by phone at (505) 992-9696 or by email at CARES@nmfa.net.