Federal PPP-aid bolsters New Mexico tourism industry amid COVID-19

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – More than 20,000 New Mexican businesses have used the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to stay open and avoid laying off workers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. But that program’s application window also ends next month, right as the state’s coronavirus cases are mounting and New Mexico scales back its reopening plans.

One of the big industries that’s benefited from the PPP in New Mexico is tourism. Hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues have received a big chunk of the more than $2.2 billion allocated to New Mexico, so far.

In downtown Albuquerque, Hotel Andaluz received a loan from the PPP between $300,000 $1million, according to data provided by the Small Business Administration. So far, the Feds haven’t revealed exact amounts businesses have utilized. Locally owned and operated, the hotel says it has used the money in part to retain many of the works on its more than full more than 130 person staff.

“The intention was you know, to get two-and-a-half-months worth of payroll, so to speak,” said Phil Snyder, general manager for Hotel Andaluz. “We’ve actually been able to stretch that out, and we still have the funds, and we’re still stretching, which is good.”

As of mid-June, the hotel has managed to stay open throughout the entirety of the pandemic, even though they’ve seen a dramatic decrease in guests. Snyder says the experience has been the toughest of his 20-year career in the hospitality industry.

“There’s no book for it, so you’re literally writing the book as you’re doing it,” Snyder said. “You’re managing this process that, none of us have ever experienced before at this scale and how it’s affected hospitality.”

The feds are forgiving PPP loans if 60% of the loan is spent on payroll, but companies need to spend that money within five and a half months of receiving it. Companies are also allowed to spend the money on other businesses experiences.

In other corners of business connected to New Mexico tourism, Duran’s Central Pharmacy in Old Town with its well-known diner received a PPP loan of between $150 and $350,000. Nearby, Hotel Chaco received somewhere between $350,000 and $1 million. The company behind the Sandia tram and the new “10-3” Restaurant at the Sandia Crest received at least $300,000 from the PPP.

In the northern mountains, Taos Ski Valley got between $2 million and $5 million from the PPP to help pay some of their workforce of more than 200 employees. One of the largest PPP recipients was Sandia Resort and Casino, which was awarded somewhere between $7 million and $15 million in federal aid. Sandia’s casino is easily the most lucrative in New Mexico, routinely pulling in more than $150 million a year in slot machine earnings alone over the past decade.

It’s uncertain if another round of PPP funding is in the pipeline. As federal lawmakers consider other stimulus programs, New Mexico’s hospitality industry is expecting a decline in the normal business it sees to close out the year. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta has canceled its planned 2020 event.

“We’re just taking it one step at a time, we’re trying not to look too far into the future,” Snyder said. “Face the challenge that’s in front of you, get past it, and then look at the next one and don’t try to think, ‘OK, well what happens if this happens? What happens if that happens?’ because you’re going to drive yourself crazy.”

Hotel Andaluz says another big cost it has to deal with this year is the loss of wedding, banquets and parties. Mass gatherings have been limited in New Mexico since March.

Albuquerque’s amusement parks also received PPP loans. Hinkle Family Fun Center was awarded an up-to $350,000 loan, while Cliff’s Amusement Park received a PPP loan of up-to $1 million.

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