NY Lawmakers Want COVID Relief Fund for Small Businesses

Small businesses in New York hammered by the COVID-19 pandemic could be in store for some relief with a measure introduced this week that would use up to $100 million in federal disaster funds for an emergency small business grant program.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Peter Harckham and Assemblyman Steve Otis, would set aside the anticipated COVID-19 stimulus funding that Congress is debating now and is expected to pass within the next four weeks. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is seeking up to $15 billion in aid from the federal government to close a budget gap and make up for the revenue lost by the pandemic and measures imposed to restrict the spread of the coronavirus.

“The financial situation for small businesses across the state right now is dire, and we cannot wait any longer to give them the help they need to survive,” Harckham said. “Giving businesses access to emergency grants so they can pay bills and remain open is a must. We asked them to ‘take one for the team,’ so to speak, and now we need to reciprocate with a level of assistance that ensures their viability and continuance.”

The pandemic led to restrictions on gatherings for many businesses, closing them in the process and leading to skyrocketing unemployment that for now has only partially recovered in the last year. 

When federal funding is in place, the bill would authorize the state to develop parameters for a grant program that provides relief to businesses that had to close due to COVID restrictions.

Packaged with the grant measure are two previously introduced proposals that would create an emergency loan program and another that would allow small businesses and small landlords to defer some taxes during the declared state of emergency. 

“As we decide where to target pandemic business relief, we must prioritize small businesses that can survive but need a boost to keep the doors open until our economy recovers,” Otis said. “At stake are local jobs and the small businesses that are vital to every community.”