March 17, 2020 By Christian Murray
The City has put plans in place to help small businesses ride out the crisis–but many local business groups say the programs do not go far enough.
The New York City Department of Business Services is now providing zero interest loans to help small business stay afloat and is also providing payroll relief for extremely small businesses as means to help them retain workers.
Many businesses across New York City were dealt a body blow yesterday when they were ordered to shut in the interest of public safety. Bars, restaurants and gyms were ordered shut last night.
The City is essentially offering two programs that apply to all small businesses—no matter what it sells or offers.
Businesses with fewer than 100 employees that can show a sales decrease of 25 percent or more are now eligible for zero interest loans up to $75,000.
The city is also offering very small businesses—those with fewer than 5 employees– a grant to cover 40 percent of payroll costs for two months (an average of $6,000) to help retain employees. They must demonstrate that the COVID-19 has led to a 25 percent decrease in revenue.
The City is recommending eligible business owners to call 311 for assistance or visiting the NYC Department of Small Business Services website.
But business group leaders such as Jamie-Faye Bean, executive director of Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District, said the measures don’t go far enough and is urging the City to expand its programs.
Bean says that the programs of zero interest loans and grants for microbusiness are inadequate given the scale of the pandemic. She also notes that businesses can’t tap into the programs quickly given the bureaucracy involved.
“Although we appreciate the intent of the program, many of our businesses are telling us that the red tape alone of accessing this relief is a barrier to applying when they are already in day-to-day survival mode.”
Several other local groups are also trying to help small businesses.
For instance, Bean says that Sunnyside Shines is trying to promote restaurants in the area that offer takeout and delivery through social media at @sunnysideshines. She is also urging consumers to bypass online apps when ordering, since they cut into business owners’ profits.
Sunnyside Shines is also looking to put together a gift program for businesses and provide additional information for local residents by visiting their page online at sunnysideshines.org/covid19
Bean has also teamed up with Jonathan Forgash, founder of Queens Dining Club and Dining for Justice event series, to provide support to Astoria’s food and beverage community. This includes marketing and information pertaining to relief.
The pair have rolled out a website called astoriatogether.org to raise awareness of grab and go meals available from businesses throughout the neighborhood. They are also looking to promote businesses via Instagram @astoriatogether
“We have to help one another during this crisis,” Forgash said. “This is our community.”