PORTALES, N.M. (KRQE) – Hardly any of thousands of students who attend Eastern New Mexico University will have to return to campus this fall and their absence will be another huge blow to the college town of Portales. When the school’s more than 4,000 students are in Portales, they make up a third of the town’s population.

Most ENMU students come from other places, so the university’s decision to go primarily online this fall means most of those students may not have to come back to Portales.  The owner of a Portales staple, McCarty’s Cafe said business has been down nearly 50% since the students were sent home in March.

“You want people to be well, you want people to get well, you want the community and everyone to be well and get healthy,” said Joshua McCarty. “But it’s real hard when it looks like you’re gonna have to sacrifice yourself for others to survive.”

Sammy Standefer, the city manager of Portales said that 100 businesses in town have been shut down temporarily at some point during the pandemic. He said about three or four have closed permanently, and about six or seven are on the cusp of closure too. 

“$150 to $200,000 a month pretty easy is what we anticipate we will lose,” said Standefer. “And that doesn’t sound like a lot of money, sometimes when you’re talking about the government but our project revenue is usually around $500,000.”

Standefer said if the town’s economy doesn’t pick up they may have to dip into some of their reserves and even eliminate services or lay off some of their employees. ENMU is allowing a limited number of students to live in the dorms, but other buildings on campus will be closed to students except by appointment.   

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