On Monday, the City Council unanimously approved a proposal to dedicate $10 million of the City’s federal CARES Act coronavirus relief funding to struggling small businesses in the area.
The measure will make $10 million available for grants of up to $10,000 apiece. Eligible businesses include those located within Albuquerque that have 50 or fewer employees and have experienced financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At least 1,000 businesses could benefit from this initiative. An amendment approved at last night’s meeting added a limit on assistance any single business could receive of $10,000 from state, City, and County assistance programs in the aggregate.
Earlier in the year, Mayor Tim Keller’s initiative to distribute $500,000 in micro-business grants saw over 1,400 applications – far more demand for assistance than the 150 businesses the City had the resources for.
The bill’s two sponsors – Councilors Brook Bassan and Trudy Jones – stressed the importance of supporting local businesses for the sake of the community, both for its immediate benefits and as an investment that can keep businesses going through the rest of the pandemic.
“It’s a multiplier of people and families that we’re keeping employed and fed and clothed and housed,” said Councilor Trudy Jones. “We’re talking about a method to take care of all of these things we want to do by helping individual small businesses. They employ our local people.”
When some councilors suggested a deferral to the next meeting in October and put it to a vote, Bassan stressed the urgency created by the pandemic situation.
“The CARES money was given to us by the federal government for people in need now, and those people are our businesses,” said Councilor Brook Bassan. “People are hurting now, and we’re on a really short timeline.”
“I really believe that these businesses are on their last leg, and the sooner we help them, the sooner we can make sure that they stay open,” Bassan added.
Mayor Tim Keller’s administration also expressed support for the program. “We will get it done, we will make it work,” said Sarita Nair, the City’s Chief Administrative Officer. “We support our small businesses and getting as much relief to them as quickly as possible.”
Two weeks ago, the Chamber sent a letter to the Mayor and Councilors strongly urging them to support the passage of this small business relief funding.