State, local leaders confident that CARES Act funds will be spent before use-it or lose-it deadline | KOB 4

State, local leaders confident that CARES Act funds will be spent before use-it or lose-it deadline

Tommy Lopez
Updated: December 20, 2020 10:10 PM
Created: December 20, 2020 09:39 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Thousands of New Mexicans have already received much-needed help amid the pandemic from federal COVID relief funding. Now, as the end of the year quickly approaches, many people are rushing to spend it all before the use-it or lose-it deadline. 

While money doesn’t fix everything, it has sure helped thousands of people across the metro area and hundreds more in Santa Fe County. This weekend, Santa Fe County workers reported more relief spending to the state. 

“You know the CARES Act money has been incredible,” said Rachel O’Conner, community services director in Santa Fe County. 

"We are really happy that we've been able to help so many people, particularly those individuals and small businesses that are hurting in our community,” she added. 

Cash went straight to small businesses and to people for help with food, rent, and utilities. 

"We feel confident that we have, and this funding has, really served our community in a way that's substantive,” O’Conner said.

The end of the month marks a big deadline—every state must spend all of its CARES Act money. 

New Mexico received more than $1 billion in funding. At the end of November, only about half of those funds had been spent.

"Yes. Yes. We're really trying hard. Any way we can get the word out is a good way,” said Chris Hyer, economic development manager in Santa Fe County. 

With less than two weeks left in 2020, leaders at the state and local levels said they’re confident that all the money will be spent. For some places, however, the spending will come down to the wire.

The city of Albuquerque has spent 88 percent of its funds and is on track to give out the rest, according to the city’s chief financial officer. City officials hope to help 2,000 businesses.

Department of Finance and Administration spokesperson Henry Valdez said nobody wants to lose out and added, "It's more than possible for local governments to spend their awards by the deadline, but we need to hustle. We are in the final lap of this race so it's time to start sprinting to the finish."

About a month ago, the state made a change that allowed cities and counties to use some of the money on public health and safety payroll.

State records show the city of Santa Fe chose to do that, but still has more than $17 million unspent.  A spokesperson did not respond to KOB 4’s request for commend on why the city has not yet been able to give that money to residents in need. 

On the Navajo Nations, leaders decided to hand out checks to families directly instead of funneling funds into construction projects. 

Congress reached another apparent deal Sunday to deliver an additional round of aid, which can’t come soon enough. 

"We still have many applications pending that we're unable to support for people who have ongoing needs,” O’Conner said.

"We're hoping that they'll be another round coming that will be directly for families and small businesses that have been hurt,” she added.

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