BY SARA SCOTT
Los Alamos County Council Chair
Today I’ll focus on providing as much information as we now have regarding the CARES Act funds that the County will be receiving – understanding that this information is incomplete and County staff are aggressively working to resolve some questions and changes associated with how these funds can be disbursed.
As always, I hope this note finds you, your families and friends well. We’ve been working together to limit the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our community – staying home and always wearing our masks and keeping our distance when we must be out is paying off. In doing so, we continue to show our support for our businesses – including creating opportunities for additional reopening, and support for our students and teachers, through more options for getting them back to school. Let’s stay strong in our efforts as we continue to navigate the path through the challenges of this pandemic.
The CARES Act funds that are now being disbursed to counties and municipalities around New Mexico are funds received by the state from the federal government. Of approximately 150M$ available to local governments in New Mexico, about 50M$ is targeted for the establishment of local grant programs to support small businesses that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic emergency.
On August 7, Los Alamos County staff submitted a proposal for a share of these funds to use in providing some direct relief to our citizens and small businesses. (I’d like to make sure and provide a big “hats off” to the staff that worked very quickly and effectively to develop a well-considered proposal within a very short response timeline.) Support for local government response to the emergency was one of the allowed uses included in the call for proposals. For example, loss of revenues, personal protective equipment required to conduct government business, sanitizing, public service announcements, and other public health and safety personnel costs. However, the County proposal for a total of $3.5M focused on three other areas of need allowed for in the applications process:
- Small Business continuity grants,
- Childcare assistance for those economically impacted by COVID-19, and
- Temporary emergency rental and mortgage assistance.
The County was recently notified that we received $656,250 in COVID-19 Emergency Grants to Local Governments and $1,065,000 in Small Business Grants in Partnership with Local Governments for a total of more than $1.7M to the County to address local needs. I am very grateful for receipt of these funds, not only to help support struggling businesses and those in need in Los Alamos and White Rock – but also for the associated broader benefit these grants will impart to our community and businesses through support for workers, teachers, and parents.
To get the funds out to the community as soon as possible, in spite of changes to some of the guidelines and information that the state requires collecting as a part of the disbursement process as well as clarification needed from the state regarding allowed types of assistance, County staff are working hard to implement needed updates to the County website, instructions, application forms, and FAQ that had been ready for this process. We anticipate that the website that will be used to provide information and application forms will be available early next week.
The website information for those interested in applying for funds will be published on the County website, in local media, disseminated through the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation and Chamber of Commerce, and partner agencies that will be assisting in the application review as soon as available. In addition to online applications, hard copy forms will be available for pick up and submission at the Municipal building. Once the process begins, a two-week period between submission of applications and provision of funds is anticipated; subsequent opportunities for fund application will be provided, pending availability of funds.
Please stay tuned and stay well. As a community we’ve shown our generosity, patience, and kindness as we always do when addressing challenges – let’s keep that going as we move forward, realizing that we have a ways to go, and we are best when working together.