ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The Santa Fe Opera, the Meow Wolf art collaborative and the non-profit organization that puts on the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta are among thousands of New Mexico businesses that received loans from the U.S. government as part of the massive effort to support the economy amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The Treasury Department on Monday identified a fraction of the borrowers, naming only those that got more than $150,000 each through the Paycheck Protection Program.
The list in New Mexico includes tribal casinos and hotels, an elite private school in Albuquerque, restaurants, breweries, oil companies, electric co-ops, law firms, churches, two of the state’s well-known newspapers, a few rural hospitals, dental and dermatology offices and a consulting company co-founded by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham more than a decade ago.
Also on the list are institutions that rely on tourists, such as the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque. Non-profit foundations that support New Mexico museums also received loans.
Across the country, the government handed out $521 billion through the Paycheck Protection Program, a crucial piece of its $2 trillion rescue package. The loans can be forgiven if the businesses mostly use the money to continue paying workers.
The program was recently extended to Aug. 8.
U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Lujan, a Democrat, said Monday the program has been a lifeline for businesses in the state. He urged New Mexicans to take advantage of the extension.
The state’s economy has taken a significant dive during the pandemic, hitting sectors - particularly oil and tourism - that New Mexico depends on. Municipal governments also are grappling with budget shortfalls, the city of Santa Fe among them.
The famed Santa Fe Opera in May announced it was cancelling its season because of the pandemic. More than $5 million in tickets had been sold.
In addition to a loan of more than $2 million through the Paycheck Protection Program, the opera has been asking patrons to donate the value of their tickets to help compensate the artists, musicians and staff who otherwise would have been working. A group of patrons also offered to match all donated tickets dollar-for-dollar up to $3 million.
Opera officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the financial assistance.
Balloon fiesta organizers also recently announced the cancellation of this year’s gathering, which was planned for October. The annual event attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators and pilots from around the world and infuses millions of dollars into the economy.
Meow Wolf, a New Mexico-based startup company, laid off about 200 employees and furloughed more than 50 more in April. The business had been awarded more than $1 million in state and city financial incentives aimed at creating jobs.
The company, which operates an immersive art installation in Santa Fe, said Monday that the pandemic is having an enormous impact on the business but it declined to say how much it has received through the Paycheck Protection Program. Federal data shows it was among those companies to receive anywhere from $5 million to $10 million.
Meow Wolf said like most other businesses, it’s constantly evaluating and reacting to the changing landscape. It currently has more than 200 employees on the payroll and the number is growing as it brings back furloughed employees in hopes of reopening the House of Eternal Return exhibition in Santa Fe.
“With hundreds of people depending on us for employment, as well as our local economy since Meow Wolf is a top attraction in Santa Fe, we take our business very seriously and will do whatever we can to continue to provide for our employees and our community,” the company said.
The consulting company founded in 2008 by Lujan Grisham and her campaign treasurer, state Rep. Deborah Armstrong, also received a loan. The company contracts with the state to run a high-risk insurance pool.
While Lujan Grisham divested herself from the company during her time in Congress, Armstrong is still an owner. Armstrong did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Other New Mexico businesses and non-profits to get loans worth more than $1 million include Bosque Brewing Inc., Calvary megachurch in Albuquerque, the Defined Fitness chain, The Downs at Albuquerque and Ruidoso Downs racetracks, and the Navajo Nation’s agricultural enterprise in northwestern New Mexico.
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