The city of Santa Fe is competing against more than 80 other municipalities and counties in New Mexico for a share of $150 million in federal coronavirus relief funding.
Fifty-two municipalities and 30 counties submitted applications to the state for pass-through funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act by Wednesday’s extended deadline, Henry Valdez, a spokesman for the state Department of Finance and Administration, said Thursday.
“Our team found errors in a couple of applications, so they are currently working with those local governments to correct their applications,” he wrote in an email, adding that the total amount requested from all 82 wouldn’t be available until Friday.
The number is certain to be considerably higher than what’s available.
Santa Fe, for example, requested $25.1 million — or almost one-fifth of available funds.
“The impact [from the novel coronavirus pandemic] on the Santa Fe economy has been severe and far-reaching,” the city wrote in its 13-page application. “The economic impact on residents has [also] been severe: Initial unemployment claims rose to over 1,800 for the week ending March 21 and peaked at close to 2,700 at the end of March.”
Santa Fe County also is among the applicants. The county requested about $15 million, including $4 million in rental and housing assistance and other social and community services and $2 million in coronavirus-related expenses through December, spokeswoman Carmelina Hart said.
During his weekly news conference Monday, Mayor Alan Webber said the federal government left cities like Santa Fe in a lurch. Only cities and counties with populations exceeding 500,000 were eligible to receive funding from the CARES Act.
“The CARES Act only helped Albuquerque in all of New Mexico, and the HEROES Act and any other resource that we could benefit from continues to be bottled up in the [U.S.] Senate,” Webber said. “To try to overcome that, the governor and her team have made a process available where local governments can put in requests for pass-through funding from the state into city and local governments to pay for CARES-related expenditures.”
Webber said the city should find out within two weeks how much, if any, funding it will receive. He said the city, which grappled with a nearly $83 million budget deficit in the current fiscal year, would be in a “significantly better” financial situation if it received CARES Act funding from the state.
“We’d be able to do a lot of things that we want to do to help families, kids [and] seniors,” he said. “Additional dollars from the state would be incredibly helpful.”
The city’s application outlines myriad ways Santa Fe has been affected by the pandemic, from the cancellation of its three major summer art markets to huge drops in occupancy rates at hotels and motels.
The application is chock-full of numbers that paint a grim picture of the local economy.
Preliminary data shows 88 businesses closed — 45 permanently — between March 1 and July 10.
Nearly 2,950 businesses in the city and Santa Fe County applied for and received federal Paycheck Protection Program funding.
“That translates into approximately 28 percent of Santa Fe businesses that showed a need for financial support due to the coronavirus,” the application states.
Since mid-March, initial unemployment claims for the entire county total more than 17,000.
“Santa Fe’s workforce has also declined by nearly 6,000 individuals from last year,” according to the application.
Taxable gross receipts in Santa Fe fell by more than $150 million from January to May when compared to the same period last year.
The city’s application also outlines the steps the city has taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, from opening an emergency shelter for the homeless on the midtown campus to adopting an ordinance requiring anyone over the age of 15 to wear a face covering in most public settings or while doing business.
Between April and August, the Santa Fe Police Department responded to 427 calls for service related to mass gatherings, social distancing, the use of face coverings and other COVID-19 concerns. Between June 10 and Aug. 4, police responded to 142 calls specifically related to the use of face coverings.
“Five citations regarding face coverings and four written warnings have been issued,” the application states.
The application warns of looming problems. It states food insecurity is at an all-time high and that social isolation is taking a toll on behavioral health.
“According to our service providers, public health indicators, such as gun violence, suicidality, domestic violence and overdose rates, are increasing,” the application states.
Housing remains a major concern.
Santa Fe was experiencing a housing crisis “pre-pandemic,” the application states, adding that about 2,600 “very low-income renters” were likely already paying more than 50 percent of their monthly income for rent or simply unable to find a rental unit they could afford.
“With job and income loss due to the pandemic, this situation has worsened,” the application states. “While the current eviction moratorium is helpful, it does not solve the problem; eventually rental arrears will prove debilitating. Landlords who can’t collect rents aren’t able to pay mortgages, exacerbating the economic uncertainties across all incomes in the housing market.”