Plans to help the economies of Southeast New Mexico counties and communities recover from COVID-19 are underway, said the coordinator of a regional disaster economic recovery team.
The recovery team is a partnership between the Southeast New Mexico Economic Development District/Council of Governments (SNMEDD/COG), the Federal Economic Development Administration and the State of New Mexico assisting local governments in southeast New Mexico with recovery planning as a result from the COVID-19 pandemic, read an SNMEDD news release.
The SNMEDD Board of Directors tapped former Village of Ruidoso Manager Debi Lee as disaster recovery team coordinator, per the release.
Eddy, Chaves, Lea, Lincoln and Otero counties and the respective municipalities are part of the recovery plan, according to the release.
Lee said a framework was drafted so the team has guidance on where to go.
She said COVID-19 devastated the communities and counties in SNMEDD’s region.
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“They were awarded some funding from The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help local governments recover with an emphasis on sustainability,” she said.
The framework is guided by multiple principles ranging from leadership and local primacy to psychological and emotional recovery, the news release indicated.
“Their goal is to develop a recovery plan that will guide and help communities adapt to the changing conditions while implementing effective strategies that are aimed toward a more resilient and sustainable future,” according to the release.
Lee said the recovery team began assessing the first six months of economic impact from COVID-19 and are currently surveying government and business to understand how everyone is surviving.
“The recovery planning has a lot of components to it. The first thing we have tackled is an economic assessment. What I’ve done is look at the gross receipts tax (GRT) from each month. We looked at GRT’s, lodger’s tax, aviation, tourism, unemployment and then I prepared two economic evaluations,” she said.
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SNMEDD Executive Director Dora Batista said the group wants to understand the full impact from COVID-19.
“And are hoping to hear success stories that can be shared with the group and used in recovery planning,” she said in the news release.
Village of Ruidoso Mayor Lynn Crawford said his community started restructuring spending plans once COVID-19 impacted the village in March of last year.
“And cut the budget by 40 percent because we were expecting revenues to go down,” he said.
Crawford said village officials found revenues stayed consistent despite the lodging and hospitality industries taking a major hit.
“It just wiped those guys down to nothing and what we see saw pickup was short term rentals. That is a big industry here in Ruidoso,” he said.
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“That was good business, so our lodger’s tax stayed fairly steady and our GRT was down some. But not tremendous like we had expected.”
Crawford said COVID-19 didn’t curtail construction in Ruidoso.
“Even now it’s still busy. A lot of those things shifted, so we had our fingers on that pulse all the time,” he said.
The recovery process is a sequence of interdependent and concurrent activities that progressively advance toward recovery outcomes, the SNMEDD release indicated.
“The key factor to achieve the desired outcome will be local leadership with a clear vision and a well-defined plan, diverse funding to finance the recovery activities along with supportive, involved stakeholders engaged in implementation,” the release stated.
Plans include meetings with all the counties and begin a process to discuss strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities which will be used in the recovery plan and a comprehensive economic development strategy, Lee said.
“We really need input from the businesses, community members and non-profits and the organizations that are really sticking together,” she said.
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Mike Smith can be reached at 575-628-5546 or by email at [email protected] or @ArgusMichae on Twitter.