Sandoval County resumed allocating small business continuity grant money for local establishments impacted by COVID-19, distributing the second round of funds earlier this month.

Economic Development Director Dora Dominguez said Sandoval County received $14.3 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding geared toward capital improvements, which include projects like a business adding or renovating building space. She also said $1 million of those funds were allocated to the economic development department to be distributed to struggling businesses operating within the county.

Smokin’ Good Bistro & Deli, a Rio Rancho-based food truck specializing in handcrafted deli meats and barbecue, was the first of 20 businesses in Sandoval County that applied for that ARPA money. Smokin’ Good received a $17,000 ARPA check.

“It’s really critical… We really never got off the ground,” said Smokin’ Good owner Paula Escudero, whose establishment launched in October 2019 before COVID-19 hardships entered the picture. “We had a few months of activity. Brand new business, shut down. We’re just trying to open back up.”

Sandoval County Economic Development Director Dora Dominguez presented Smokin’ Good Bistro & Deli owner Paula Escudero with a $17,000 ARPA check to help Escudero get her establishment up and running again.
(Photo courtesy of Stephen Montoya)

Dominguez said the first round of small business continuity grants was distributed to businesses via CARES Act funding. She also said the ARPA money now being distributed — for to those who didn’t receive previous CARES Act funding — represents the second round of funds.

To be eligible for the funding, Dominguez said a business has to demonstrate being impacted by the pandemic, such as loss of revenue or accumulating pandemic-related expenses under the COVID-19 restrictions.

Escudero said she accumulated 14 months worth of debt during the pandemic, from insurance costs to storage unit costs.

Escudero said the ARPA money she received will allow her to take care of any leftover bills and taxes from last year that may not have been paid off.

She also said she will use some of that money to pay for a reserved spot at any future events like wine or music festivals that feature food trucks, which she hopes will materialize in time for the holidays this fall and winter.

“I just see the bright side of this,” said Escudero, who also looks to expand her deli product line.

Dominguez said it’s exciting to see Escudero, who works alongside her son Sean, get things going again because of the ARPA funding.

“She was a little choked up. This is her passion. The business has provided a career track for her son, and she really does want to create a business that she can provide a living for her and her son as well,” Dominguez said.

Dominguez said another five ARPA checks were set to be distributed this past week.

To apply for ARPA funding, a business must download the application present on the county’s website, print and scan the document as an attachment and then email it to businessgrant@sandovalcountynm.gov.

Matt Hollinshead | Staff writer