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City Invests CARES Act Funding in Caring for Most Vulnerable, Boosting Economy, Shifting City Workers to COVID Response

On track to spend all $150 million allocated by end of year deadline.

Dec. 31, 2020

 

The City of Albuquerque is on track to invest all $150 million it received in federal CARES Act funding in time for the original end of year deadline set by Congress, the City announced today. Priorities for use of the funds included shoring up the safety net for seniors, workers living paycheck-to-paycheck, and the homeless, as well as preventing the bottom from falling out of the local economy as local businesses endured shutdowns and restrictions.

 

“When this crisis hit, we came up with innovative and unorthodox solutions to keep people safe, help businesses stay afloat, and make sure we looked after our seniors and the homeless,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “Albuquerque has shown the world its trademark resilience and grit, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than here while we make our way through the pandemic.”

 

Mayor Keller and City leaders worked closely with the New Mexico Congressional Delegation and Mayors nationwide to make sure Albuquerque and other major cities received direct funding from the CARES Act, passed in March of 2020. $150 million was allocated to the City, along with guidance from the Treasury Department that it could be used broadly in support of COVID relief efforts.

The City focused much of the funding on shifting employees from jobs that were limited by the pandemic into roles directly related to supporting the community in crisis. Community Center employees went from hosting summer camps to providing essential workers with child care options when they had to continue going to work. Senior Center employees went from leading social events in senior centers to setting up a network that distributed more than half a million meals and conducted regular wellness checks. Economic Development staff shifted into managing more than $10 million in grants and other support programs to help small businesses stay afloat.

Using City workers for direct COVID response also helped avoid mass layoffs or furloughs that risked further negative economic effects. Overall, employees across 20 City departments were shifted into COVID response roles, at a total cost of $120 million.

 

In addition to shifting the City workforce into crisis response, the Keller administration invested significantly in caring for Albuquerque residents who were vulnerable to falling through the cracks of the recovery.

 

That included more than $11 million to supporting local small businesses, a program that was critical to keeping the bottom from falling out of the local economy.

Chad Cooper, Principal of Operations at Tillman Cyber Services, an Albuquerque-based service-disabled veteran owned cybersecurity firm, said, Small businesses have taken a hit financially this year and the pandemic has forced many of us to be creative and flexible in how we deliver our services. These grants from the City will help our business community continue to be nimble and weather the storm to remain in business for when we return to normalcy, or what becomes our new normal.”

 

Star Velasquez, owner of Aura Beauty Parlor, has made many pivots to stay open and safe in 2020, including taking more time between clients to sanitize, and starting online sales for products they offer. Velasquez said the Small Business Relief Grant provided by the City helped keep her business afloat. Being shut down for so long and having to pay for your survival outside of the business, and the business itself—the grant was so important to keep us up-to-date with the bills we have to pay.”

 

The City also invested CARES funding in shoring up the social safety net in Albuquerque, putting nearly $3.5 million into testing, shelter, and healthcare to prevent and control outbreaks in the homeless community, $2.5 million to families who were overlooked by the federal stimulus checks program, $2.3 million to make sure schoolchildren had access to WiFi for homework, and nearly $1 million to prevent families from being evicted during the pandemic.

 

Mona, whose last name is being withheld for privacy purposes but benefitted from the eviction prevention funding, wrote City workers directly to express how critical it was for her: “Thank you so much for helping me. I hope your holidays will be wonderful just as mine is going to be knowing I won't get evicted and that I still have a roof over my head and electricity.”