Local governments rush to dole out remaining CARES Act funds before use-it or lose-it deadline

By Tommy Lopez with KOB 4

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and other state leaders say they need more federal funding to help New Mexico residents and businesses make it through the pandemic.

Back in March, New Mexico received $1.2 billion in CARES Act funding for that exact purpose, but there’s still a lot of money left on the table to spend before the Dec. 30 use-it or lose-it deadline. 

About half of the funding that localities are supposed to hand out hasn’t been spent, which adds up to more than $175 million dollars. More than $350 million of the $1.2 billion that New Mexico received went to 85 cities and counties, as well as tribes.

CARES Act Spending in Bernalillo County and the City of Albuquerque

Albuquerque and Bernalillo County were awarded a lot of CARES Act money, and have also spent a lot compared to the rest of the state.  The city of Albuquerque has given out about 78 percent of its $150 million and hopes to help at least 2,000 businesses with the money. 

“We are confident the remaining amount will be expended in allowable ways,” said a city spokesperson in a statement.

City officials said they’ll start taking applications again for its Small Business Economic Relief Grant program on Dec. 7.

Bernalillo County has spent 80 percent of its $30 million. 

“Bernalillo County is expecting to spend more of the CARES Act funding before the end of year deadline. There are several items and initiatives that are still being evaluated,” a county spokesperson said in a statement.

The rest of the state has only made use of 26 percent of its funding so far. 

The New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration took CARES Act requests then sent funding to all the localities—except for Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, which received money straight from the federal government.

Spokesperson Henry Valdez said he’s confident that there’s going to be an increase in spending in the next few weeks.

“Getting these funds to the communities is vital,” Valdez said.

CARES Act Spending in Sandoval County

Localities are working hard to make sure all the money is spent, but some have a long way to go with just five and a half weeks left before the deadline. 

Sandoval County leaders said businesses need to act fast. Officials said there’s nearly $1 million in grants on the table that could help at least 48 businesses. 

The city of Rio Rancho also has their own funds from the CARES Act with nearly $500,000 left to use. 

The county prioritized rural areas and said they’ve received 35 applications so far. 

“Now, with the current shutdown that’s in place, I think there’s more of a sense of urgency, that, I thought I could get by back in September because I was open again and customers were coming back in, may not be the case so much now,” said Dora Dominguez, Sandoval County Director of Business and Economic Development. 

Dominguez said businesses that have closed can also reach out for help. 

“We would hope that whatever they got from us, they could then turn around and open their doors again,” she said. 

Santa Fe County CARES Act Spending

Small business funding is one category, but the other category is less specific. Many localities are using CARES Act money to help struggling families pay for rent, mortgages, utilities, or food. 

The city Santa Fe and Santa Fe County have more than $25 million left to spend. 

“Yes. Yes. We’re really trying hard. Any way we can get the word out is a good way. It’s very surprising that people are saying, ‘I just learned about this. I just heard about this,’” said Chris Hyer, Economic Development Manager for Santa Fe County. 

Other Localities

A spokesperson for the city of Las Cruces said they’re about to finish spending its $12 million in CARES Act funds. 

The cities of Roswell and Farmington are other examples of successful spending. 

“We are getting close to the end of those funds, and we’re very pleased with what those have been able to do for our community,” said Warren Unsicker, Director of Economic Development for Farmington. 

Spending the Remaining Money

Localities across the state received CARES Act funding in September, and many were ready to take applications in October. Unspent money may end up going back to the federal government or could be disbursed to other states. 

In the meantime, state lawmakers will form a plan to spend more of the CARES Act money during the special session, which begins Tuesday. Lawmakers have about $300 million to work with. 

For more information about how to apply for funding, see the list below: 

City of Albuquerque: https://www.cabq.gov/economicdevelopment/small-business-economic-relief-grant

Bernalillo County: https://www.bernco.gov/economic-development/covid-19-resources-.aspx

Sandoval County: https://www.sandovalcountynm.gov/covid-19-information/business-resources/

Santa Fe County: https://www.dreamspring.org/covid-19-resources , https://www.ncnmedd.com/santa-fe-grant-program