LAS CRUCES – The county has begun to distribute checks for small business pandemic grants, kicking things off with the first award at the Doña Ana County Government Center on Friday morning.
While County Manager Fernando Macias said that Friday was the deadline for county businesses to apply for a slice of $3 million in federal aid, he also said in an email the county wanted to get some of the checks out while other applications were still being processed.
In September, the state announced the county would receive $3,039,750 in pandemic aid through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to be used for small business grants.
Marci Dickerson, who owns The Game Sports Bar and Grill, The Game II and Dickerson’s Catering and Event Services, was the first business owner to receive a grant during a news conference at the county building Nov. 20.
County Commission Chair Lynn Ellins presented her with the grant in a manila envelope.
Dickerson said the $50,000 grant her catering business received will go entirely toward employee payroll. She said aside from a few employees going on unemployment for about six weeks, her entire catering staff has been kept on the payroll while the business has not been able to operate since March.
The catering business was the only Dickerson business to receive the grant since it is located in the county and not Las Cruces. She said 14 full-time staff work there.
Donning their black uniforms, several members of Dickerson’s Catering staff joined her to receive the funding.
“That is the staff that truly appreciates you,” Dickerson said. “Every penny that you give us today will continue to pay their salaries and to make sure they have food on the table.”
Jason Cartwright, a catering manager, said the grant money will help until the pandemic ends and “hopefully we’ll be getting back to normal work.”
Nursing his baby with her bottle, Catering Manager Tyler Allred said “we’re just grateful that people care and are trying to help us out.”
“Without this grant, without what you guys are doing, we wouldn’t have money to feed our family, to do anything like that,” Allred said. “So we’re just very grateful we’re able to be here.”
Dickerson said her catering staff has been helping put together food boxes, doing community service and helping put on some of her other notable charity events while the business can’t operate.
The business grant funds can be used to cover non-owner employee payroll, marketing, rent and utilities, insurance, mortgage payments and various redesign costs to make a business’ operations comply with the state’s health guidelines for businesses.
County spokesperson Catherine Zaharko said a team is notifying other approved businesses of their grant approvals, which will also be hand-delivered to each business. Businesses will also be able to have checks mailed or they can pick it up at the county building.
Zaharko said 82 businesses have applied so far and 30 have been finalized.
Still time to apply
As new virus-related business closures have become effective this past week, county businesses outside Las Cruces city limits can still apply for the grant money.
The deadline is midnight Nov. 20. Interested county businesses should visit the website for the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce to apply online at lascruces.org. The chamber is helping the county with the application process.
Las Cruces’ grant program allowed small businesses to receive up to $10,000. The county program is more flexible and allows businesses to ask the county for the amount they need. Dickerson said her catering business requested $155,000, for instance.
Businesses eligible to apply for a county grant must meet the following criteria:
- Have an active business registration license in good standing;
- Located in Doña Ana County unincorporated areas, City of Anthony, City of Sunland Park, Town of Mesilla and Village of Hatch;
- Business is headquartered in Doña Ana County;
- Business has been forced to close or severely curtailed business operations as a result of closure orders from the State;
- Have 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees;
- Have an annual revenue of $2 million or less prior to the impact of COVID-19;
- Businesses must have had a start date prior to March 1, 2019;
- Nonprofit organizations as designated by IRS and have a certificate of good standing with the State of New Mexico.
Completed applications and required documents can also be dropped off at the government offices for the cities of Anthony, N.M. and Sunland Park, the Town of Mesilla and the Village of Hatch, or in person at 150 E. Lohman Ave. in Las Cruces.
While the chamber’s website mentions it as an option, Macias said it’s too late to mail the application.
For information, call the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce at (575) 524-1968 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.