Lawmakers, groups discuss small business assistance
by Benjamin Fang
Apr 22, 2020 | 1764 views | 0 0 comments | 107 107 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As small businesses continue to struggle in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, most federal and city programs have run out of money.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is no longer accepting applications for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) because funding has been exhausted.

Similarly, the city’s Department of Small Business Services (SBS) has stopped taking applications for its $22 million continuity loan fund or the employee retention grant program.

Last Thursday, the Long Island City Partnership hosted a town hall with SBS Commissioner Gregg Bishop, who spoke about how their programs have been “oversubscribed from the beginning.”

“We just have so many applications and limited funding, it would not be prudent to continue accepting applications,” he said.

SBS has pivoted to supporting businesses applying for SBA programs. Bishop noted that the next federal stimulus will be roughly $250 billion, but he said lawmakers should push for a more consistent stimulus so people aren’t rushing when funds are appropriated.

“Once Congress passes the next stimulus, they will resume accepting applications,” he said.

Bishop urged small businesses who haven’t applied yet to get their documentation and paperwork together, such as payroll records, so they are ready. New York is currently fourth in displacement dollars behind California, Florida and Illinois.

SBS is still running business solution centers remotely, and is conducting education courses through webinars. The agency is also offering free legal assistance for commercial tenants.

Bishop said the mayor’s recently unveiled executive budget is “dire,” as New York City faces $7 billion in deficits that have to be balanced.

“The only way we can see a true recovery, not only for businesses but for cities, is with a federal response,” he said. “Without that, this recovery will be much longer than we need it to be.”

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who’s part of the City Council’s Budget Negotiating Team, said the federal government has to come through for the city.

“We are hemorrhaging money,” he said. “We’re talking about billions of dollars.”

The SBS commissioner added that commerce will likely not resume until people feel safe from the pandemic. Without the ability to test, isolate or find a vaccine, people won’t feel comfortable going to bars, concerts or crowded restaurants.

He also warned that there will be a “slow ramp up” that will likely be 12 to 18 months. The city will need to figure out how to help the hospitality and tourism industries as well.

“You may have to retool your business model for the next year or so,” Bishop said. “Those are things we’re thinking about in terms of support.”

Last week, the Queens Chamber of Commerce also hosted a town hall meeting with lawmakers who represent Woodhaven and portions of the Rockaway peninsula. They also sounded the alarm about the lack of support for small businesses in their districts.

“At the city level, I’m very disappointed,” said Councilman Eric Ulrich. “The fact is, the city can be doing more to help small businesses.”

The south Queens lawmaker also said businesses have seen a delay in the PPP rollout, which businesses are depending on to survive.

“I don’t want to see mom-and-pop shops go under because of the COVID crisis,” he said.

Assemblyman Mike Miller said the government should look at reducing or eliminating some taxes, like the payroll or social security tax for small businesses. He also spoke out against eliminating the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), which the mayor has proposed in the executive budget.

“There are a lot of small businesses that rely on one or two people they get from SYEP to help them with their bottom line,” Miller said. “They don’t have to shell out the expense of paying for them.”

Ulrich said he was also “very uncomfortable” with the idea of having 80,000 young people without jobs over the summer. He said saving SYEP needs to be addressed in the budget process.

He suggested that the mayor tap into more public-private partnerships to fund summer jobs.

“I don’t want to see young adults out of work,” Ulrich said. “We need to keep them employed during the summertime.”

Another question for the summer is whether beaches will remain open and staffed. Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato said that is also a budgetary issue, but she’s worried about public safety and health.

“I want to protect the public first,” she said.

Ulrich advocated for keeping the beaches open. He noted that the city will spend more money policing the beaches if they close over the summer.

He hopes that by July and August, New York City will “not be in the situation are in now.”

“The beaches play a very important role in helping people get a sense of normalcy,” Ulrich said. “I’m praying social distancing will pan out the way we want.

“I can’t imagine the city shutting down over the summer unless it absolutely has to,” he added. “I just can’t envision it.”

State Senator Joseph Addabbo said lawmakers will continue to look at figuring out solutions to help small businesses as the COVID-19 crisis continues.

“We have to work even harder to get people back on their feet,” he said. “We have more work to do going forward after the virus.”
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