Today New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham confirmed a new coronavirus infection that has no apparent link to travel on Wednesday, March 18, 2020, during a news conference on the floor of the state House of Representatives in Santa Fe, N.M. She also issued orders to limit the spread of the contagion by restricting restaurants to take-out service and closing down movie theaters, gyms, spas and shopping malls. New Mexico is bracing for the possible spread of coronavirus to some of America’s most remote, impoverished communities, as hospitals across the state prepare to convert operating rooms into acute respiratory care units. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s State Investment Council on Tuesday approved the creation of a $100 million business recovery fund to help medium-sized businesses meet payroll obligations and avoid layoffs amid the economic turmoil of the coronavirus pandemic.

The council overseen by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham controls a $23 billion portfolio of endowments that support public education.

It voted unanimously to channel assets from the state’s Severance Tax Permanent Fund toward economic recovery loans.

The governor and state health officials have shut down nonessential businesses unless employees can work from home, banned dine-in restaurant service and limited occupancy at hotels in an effort to slow the spread of the coronvirus. Gatherings of more than five people are prohibited. At least 83 residents of New Mexico have tested positive for the virus.

Lujan Grisham emphasized the importance of providing financial support to the hospitality industry as business revenues plummet ahead of the summer tourism season.

Some council members objected to offering emergency loans to employers who are headquartered outside the state and worry that $100 million line of credit is inadequate.

Larger diversions from the Severance Tax Permanent Fund or Land Grant Permanent Fund would require a state constitutional amendment that involves approval by the Legislature and a statewide vote.

The new program is designed to complement other state and federal economic rescue efforts.


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