US Election 2020 Biden Lujan Grisham

In this Jan. 21, 2020, file photo, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham gives her State of the State address during the opening of the New Mexico legislative session in the House chambers at the state Capitol in Santa Fe, N.M.

(The Center Square) – Low-interest loans intended to help New Mexico small businesses recover from the pandemic have received lackluster interest.

After few businesses applied for the initial $400 million in low-interest loans offered, lawmakers added $100 million to the available money in addition to broadening the qualifying criteria in an attempt to draw more interest.

This move has made little impact, however, with only approximately $73.5 million having been distributed so far, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

Carla Sonntag, president of the New Mexico Business Coalition, said legislators were told this was not what businesses needed, but they didn’t listen.

“We talked to legislators when they passed this the first time during a special session,” she told The Center Square. “I said, ‘Businesses don’t want debt. What they want is to be able to go back to operating their business, making a living and providing jobs for New Mexicans.’ And they gave out hardly any money in the first go round; so they came back, broadened it, added more to the loan amount, and we came back and said the same thing: businesses still do not want more debt.”

Sonntag said these results are what she anticipated.

As the delta variant spreads around the country, New Mexico businesses operate in uncertainty about whether they will be allowed to remain open, Sonntag said. New Mexico has had some of the tightest restrictions in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A letter from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and her administration recently requested businesses implement vaccine mandates for employees and customers.

While some businesses are happy to comply, others find it more difficult, Sonntag pointed out.

“There are some businesses that don’t want to operate that way because they’re having a horrible time hiring and getting their business up and running again,” she said. “So they don’t want to have this mandate of their employees and customers.”

Rumors that the state will go into another lockdown adds to business owners’ uncertainty, adds Sonntag.

Instead of loans, Sonntag would like to see the state enact some helpful policies.

“I think if we could promote a positive attitude of working together through this pandemic instead of trying to pit business against their customers and their employees or adding that tension, but finding a more comprehensive and cooperative way of doing business while protecting everybody’s health, I think that would be the optimal thing for most businesses in the state,” she said.