New Mexico Senate endorses $200 million for business grants | Government & Politics

New Mexico Senate endorses $200 million for business grants

State House Majority Speaker Brian Egolf takes his oath on the opening day of the legislative session on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. State lawmakers convened for the opening day of a two-month session. Capitol buildings are closed to the public due to the pandemic, and under strict security lockdowns due to the Jan. 6 attack against federal lawmakers in Washington D.C.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s Senate has endorsed a bill that would provide $200 million from the state general fund to thousands of businesses that experienced income declines in 2020, in a nearly unanimous vote Thursday.

The bill would provide individual grants of up to $100,000 without repayment to businesses for the reimbursement of rent, lease or mortgage obligations on property located in New Mexico. The bill returns to the House for consideration of Senate amendments.

The arrangement tests the boundaries of the state Constitution’s “anti-donation clause” that prohibits government donations as a precaution against corruption.

The proposal from Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf and allied state Rep. Christine Chandler of Los Alamos stands among a long list of bills aimed at reviving the local economy as New Mexico emerges from the pandemic and aggressive emergency health orders from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

“When you’re closed and you have no other source of income and you just need to survive, we need to make those opportunities for New Mexicans in any way, shape or form,” Sen. George Muñoz of Gallup said Wednesday as the lead Senate budget committee endorsed the grant program.

Republican Sen. Pat Woods of Grady bristled at the prospect of continued business restrictions as relief initiatives are drafted.