There is no question that the Albuquerque area economy has been hit hard by the COVID crisis. In general, New Mexico’s economy lags behind much of the rest of the US, and this crisis is likely to cause us to fall even further behind. We need our small businesses to fuel our local economy, and they are our focus.
To get the latest information on the health of small business here, I interviewed the man whose finger is on the pulse of our small business community, John M. Garcia, District Director for SBA New Mexico.
According to Director Garcia, the major challenge for many small businesses is in the amount of financial reserves owners are able to amass. While most have enough resources to survive for a few months, the length and severity of this pandemic has resulted in major un-planned-for expenses to provide required safety protocol.
The early shutdown meant that most customers were sheltering at home.
Many of our local small businesses, whose margins at best are low, include ‘mom-and-pop’-owned retail stores, cafes, coffee shops and grocery stores that have already closed. The new surge in COVID cases likely ensures that they will not return.
When the Federal Government developed the Paycheck Protection Program, SBA-NM approved 22,000 applications from NM small businesses with $2.3 billion being distributed by over 600 NM banks. Other programs were also developed, but they were just a Band-aid and did not stop the hemorrhaging.
For John Garcia, a strong national offensive plan was urgently needed. The failure to have a real strategy to combat the virus, and the patchwork of programs created, has resulted in a lot of mixed messages and major challenges for small businesses.
SBA-NM has been very active in providing information, education and support to our small businesses, offering 25-30 webinars each month that involve hundreds of small business owners. A recent regional webinar had 4,700 participants; a webinar for women-owned businesses, 70 participants. Many more are planned.
In our ongoing series we will continue to explore resources and options for small businesses in our area.
Need help? Contact NM SBA at https://www.sba.gov/offices/district/nm/albuquerque