Unemployment claims in New Mexico remained high for the week ending April 25 with 13,712 new claims filed, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

But claims may be leveling.

The state Department of Workforce Solutions unofficially reported 13,898 claims for the week of April 10-16. Both weeks are the lowest totals since mass layoffs spurred by the COVID-19 crisis, which started in mid-March.

New Mexico has seen 125,075 people file for unemployment benefits from March 13 through April 25. The numbers from that six-week period match three years of claims.

Through April 18, the U.S. Labor Department had the New Mexico unemployment rate at 10.09 percent.

Unemployment claims likely will be significantly higher as April 26 was the first day in New Mexico that self-employed, contractors and gig economy workers could apply for unemployment through the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

First-week numbers for that program were not made available by the state Department of Workforce Solutions, which stopped issuing weekly unemployment reports April 17 and refers inquires for statistics to the U.S. Department of Labor.

There was no sense of how many self-employed workers may have filed for unemployment in the first five days, said John Garcia, New Mexico district director of the Small Business Administration.

Making the picture foggier still is the likelihood that thousands of small-business owners are opting for the federal Paycheck Protection Program and federal Emergency Injury Disaster Loan rather than unemployment. New Mexico had 8,277 applications approved for $1.4 billion in the first round of the Paycheck Protection Program, and the second-round applications started Monday. The funding likely will be exhausted Friday, Garcia said.

“We know [New Mexico lending institutions] are inundated with a tsunami of applications,” Garcia said.

He said the first round of the Paycheck Protection Program lent as much money as the Small Business Administration does in 14 years.

But the Paycheck Protection Program is not the answer for everyone, Garcia said.

“It may be more beneficial for the sole proprietor to apply for unemployment rather than the PPP,” he said. “You can only get $1,900 [as a sole proprietor] with PPP. You really need to look at what’s going to be more beneficial if you are a sole proprietor.”

Elizabeth Buddington, owner of Estrella Skin Care in downtown Santa Fe, had to shut down her store March 15 per a state health order. She and husband, Doyle Buddington, moved from California to Santa Fe last year. Her business was not operating for part of last year, so she has limited income to claim for the self-employed unemployment benefit.

“I’ve been trying to apply for unemployment,” she said. “It won’t go any further and always takes me back to a page to add an additional employer. There is no other employer. It’s just me.”

Buddington did get a $1,900 check this week from the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

“We’ll be living off our savings,” she said. “We don’t have expensive living standards.”

Lawrence Israel, a self-employed plumbing and heating technician, applied Monday for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program that provides unemployment benefits.

“The money they are sending me is a free trip to the grocery store,” he said, adding unemployment doesn’t leave anything for rent, insurance or other expenses.

“My mother gave me $1,000, which really helps,” Israel said. “I got my [$1,200] stimulus check. That’s going to get rent paid and put food on the table.”

Israel stopped working a month ago as a precaution to avoid getting or potentially transmitting the novel coronavirus.

“As a plumber, I feel a responsibility to my clients and myself to do no harm, period,” he said. “I want to avoid the risk of making anybody sick.”

An additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits are now available for people who exhausted their 26 weeks of regular unemployment insurance benefits since July 1, according to Workforce Solutions. The additional benefits are funded through the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program that are part of the federal CARES Act stimulus legislation.

Show what you're thinking about this story

You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.

Recommended for you

(3) comments

George Welland

This story does a disservice to the public in providing information about the misnamed Paycheck Protect Program (PPP). However, if your readers read between the lines of statements by Mr. Garcia, the Dist. Dir of the SBA, the story is that PPP sucks and isn't worth the time pursuing... So get on that computer and file for regular state unemployment insurance (UI) or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Regular state UI is for wage slaves that get W-2s, while PUA is for everyone else (Sch.-C filers, 1099-ers; even clergy, student part-time employees that just started working, or peace corpse volunteers; etc.) Oh and applicants for the latter are allowed to backdate their PUA claims (including the additional $600.00 per week) to the week ending February 8, 2020! Of course the state UI office has done a terrible job of processing regular state UI and poorly communicated how PUA works for everyone else (but for PUA you have to show your taxes, and business books for 2019 to be eligible, and must first claim for regular state UI to prove you're not eligible for it).

clint harden

What are the projection for the continued solvency of the Unemployment Trust fund.

George Welland

Is that a rhetorical question or do you just feel like crying? The fund is bust, it'll be one huge federal loan (if the state is lucky); and future experience rating taxes will really jump (although there are work-a-rounds and always have been); but the main thing is that the federal government is picking up the increased $600.00 per week for standard state unemployment insurance (UI), and the entire freight for everything else beyond standard state UI (when those claims exhaust/expire). New Mexico has basically been a ward of the federal government since well before statehood (and considering all things the U.S. government has done here, that's appropriate!).

Welcome to the discussion.

Thank you for joining the conversation on Santafenewmexican.com. Please familiarize yourself with the community guidelines. Avoid personal attacks: Lively, vigorous conversation is welcomed and encouraged, insults, name-calling and other personal attacks are not. No commercial peddling: Promotions of commercial goods and services are inappropriate to the purposes of this forum and can be removed. Respect copyrights: Post citations to sources appropriate to support your arguments, but refrain from posting entire copyrighted pieces. Be yourself: Accounts suspected of using fake identities can be removed from the forum.