ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico’s Republican Party is coming out against the state’s continued COVID-19 related closures, worried that it put a lot of small businesses in rural parts of the state out of business for good.
New Mexico Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce convened several small business owners and GOP lawmakers in a virtual news conference Monday, arguing for the reopening of small businesses around the state in “a responsible manner.”
Referring to the health order related closures, Pearce says small business owners are “going broke because of lack of common sense.”
“We can maintain the five or less in an establishment and still be open for business,” Pearce said.
The frustration comes now more than one-month since New Mexico confirmed its first case of Coronavirus. New Mexico has been under a “stay-at-home” order since March 24 when the state issued a public health order closing all non-essential businesses and non-profits.
“We really need to have a long-term plan, what is the long-term plan, how long do we see continuing this so that we can make the decisions that will affect our employees and our operations as a whole,” said Senator Cliff Pirtle from the Roswell area.
Chairman Pearce suggested Monday that in counties with fewer cases COVID-19 cases are likely safer to allow the reopening of small businesses that are often the sole outposts for 20 to 40 miles. Pearce also argued Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s health order is forcing everyone to go big box stores, putting more people at risk by contributing to crowding.
Some businesses in Monday’s news conference said they may not be able to reopen after the pandemic if they’re forced to stay closed much longer.
“If the governor continues to try to run my business for me, she’s going to shut my doors,” said Shelly Quartieri, owner of Colfax Tavern & Diner near Maxwell, NM in northern New Mexico.
Owner of the gun store Calibers, Louie Sanchez says he intends to violate the state’s public health order by reopening his business.
“We at Calibers have decided that we are going to open up with social distancing on our range and you know what, we’re going to take this fight back to (Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham)” Sanchez said.
In response, Democrat House Speaker Brian Egolf said in a news conference Monday that the threat of COVID-19 is too high.
“I and I know that our colleagues in the administrative branch, we are not willing to play Russian Roulette with the lives of New Mexicans, opening one small business here on the hopes that we don’t have an outbreak,” Egolf said.
Egolf also highlighted the help available for small businesses, saying $450 million dollars from the federal Small Business Administration’s paycheck protection and business loan packages is already heading to New Mexico companies.
“Every small business in the country is confronting this problem, but if we stick together, we will get through this,” Egolf said.
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