SANTA FE — New Mexico legislators pressed forward Wednesday with proposals for pandemic-related financial relief measures, including minimal-interest loans to small businesses that have been battered by the pandemic and emergency health restrictions.
The Democrat-led state Senate was scheduled Wednesday to hold its first floor votes of the year on a package of economic relief bills.
A centerpiece bill from state Sen. Jacob Candelaria of Albuquerque would authorize loans of up to $150,000 to small businesses at sub-prime interest rates of less than 2% annual interest.
The bill allows a state trust fund to invest up to $500 million in the loans to businesses with ownership ties to New Mexico through May 2022 — forsaking traditional investments based on risks and returns.
The proposed investment policy builds on a more limited small business loan program last year that provided about $40 million in loans of up to $75,000 each. The new program would allows those loans to be refinanced at more favorable terms to small businesses.
“The best thing we can hope for in terms of our recovery is that firms across the state begin to grow again, take risks, taking out loans, taking out credit to build, to invest, to grow, to employ more people, to make capital investments,” Candelaria told a Senate panel this week.
The Legislature is racing against the clock during a 60-day legislative session that ends March 20 to enact economic relief measures, amid uncertainty about a possible new round of direct federal aid to state and local governments.
A pending decision from the state Supreme Court could allow businesses to pursue compensation from the state in response to aggressive emergency health restrictions on nonessential businesses by the administration of Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Across most of the state, health restrictions have shut down entertainment venues and still prohibit public gatherings of more than 10 people, ban indoor dining at restaurants and limit occupancy at essential businesses such as grocery and hardware stores.
Other prominent state relief proposals would allot a $600 tax rebate to working low-income families and provide a break on business sales and services taxes to food service establishments such as restaurants, craft breweries and food trucks.
Another bill would waive fees for all liquor licenses in the hard-hit hospitality industry.