New York’s $ 800 Million Grants Program Starts Paying, But Few Small Businesses Apply

To help close the funding gap after federal paycheck protection program funds dried up, in June Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a new $ 800 million recovery grant program for small businesses still recovering from financial losses during the pandemic. The first group of recipients were notified of their scholarships in mid-July and will soon be receiving their grants.

While 50,000 businesses applied for the program, as many as 330,000 businesses were potentially eligible statewide, meaning that many state grants are left on the table. The minimum grant was $ 5,000 and all grants are calculated on the company’s annual gross revenue for 2019. This begs the question: why haven’t more people applied?

Across the region, webinars were held to raise awareness of New York State’s COVID-19 Pandemic Small Business Takeover Grants Program and ensure businesses know how to apply if they are. eligible.

In Ulster, less than 15 entrepreneurs attended the webinar. Tim Weidemann, director of the Ulster County Economic Development Department, said that while he couldn’t say exactly why more people didn’t apply, a challenge Ulster faced both with this program of state grants and federal programs is how to help businesses that may not prove their losses between 2019 and 2020 because they were a new business in 2019.

“I think this grant has value,” Weidemann said. “It’s not a small number who have already applied, indicating that they are still struggling and need support to pivot, recover and successfully emerge from the pandemic as a business.”

The program reimburses small business grants of up to $ 50,000 for COVID-related expenses incurred between March 1, 2020 and April 1, 2021. The program is designed only for small and micro businesses, including independent for-profit arts and culture organizations that started operating on or before March 1, 2019. A small business is defined by the state as employing 100 people or less, while a micro-business is defined as employing 10 people or less.

Priority is given to socially and economically disadvantaged business owners, including minority and women owned businesses, businesses owned by veterans and disabled veterans, as well as businesses located in struggling communities economic.

Because it is always considered a new program and applications stay open, it has time to develop. “People are slowly learning that this is a resource they may not have been aware of,” said Weidemann, who still receives inquiries about the grant.

For some, the grant was exactly what they hoped for. Tom Martinelli, owner of a three-person publishing house in Dutchess County that focuses on the travel industry, said that after attending the Dutchess Business Notification Network webinar, which attracted 50 other owners company, he was ready to apply.

This weekend, he spent about two hours filling out the online application. After applying for two rounds of PPP loans and the Small Business Association’s COVID-19 Economic Disaster Loan, Martinelli said he knew how to handle the paperwork typically required to make it a transparent and straightforward process.

“I thought I had nothing to lose,” Martinelli said. Although it is not a minority or women owned business and may not have priority, it still qualifies as a micro enterprise with less than 10 employees and can prove financial loss due to of the pandemic.

Martinelli has not yet heard from whether he will receive a state grant.

Locally, State Senator Michelle Hinchey, who sits on the Senate Committee on Economic Development and Small Business, announced the local voter relief program at a press conference in Saugerties on June 8.

“Small businesses are the backbone of many of our communities and it is up to us to do all we can to support them after the past 18 difficult months,” Hinchey said in a written statement, adding that his office has since helped. more than 40 local businesses. request funding.

Applications are still open, with an undetermined amount still available out of the $ 800 million initially allocated to the last relief program.

Grant money can be used for salary costs, commercial rent or mortgage payments, payment of local property or school taxes, insurance costs, utility costs, household equipment costs. personal protection, costs for heating, ventilation and air conditioning, other machinery and more.

The program will last until funds are exhausted. Due to a limited amount of funding and the high volume of applications, type of business, geography and industry are also factored into the possibility of receiving a grant.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan in 2020 and 2021, which ended on May 31 of this year, has provided support to many companies during the pandemic. Those who then received a loan can still apply for this grant, as long as the total of all PPP loans does not exceed $ 100,000.

Unlike most federal pandemic relief programs, the NYS grant is a source of direct economic relief and does not have to be repaid. PPP was primarily aimed at keeping employees on the company’s payroll and keeping businesses open, while the New York program seeks to help small businesses recoup some of the costs they incurred at the height of their business. the pandemic.

Business owners can also ignore the bank for this grant and apply online through Lendistry, a minority-run community development financial institution.

The Small Business Pandemic Recovery Grant program is not the only relief available, but it is the most significant in recent months. For restaurateurs, $ 25 million in grants are available to support restaurants that offer meals to struggling and under-represented communities. For the entertainment industry, there is a New York Music and Theater Production Tax Credit that provides $ 100 million in tax credits to support tourism activity. These relief programs are still being finalized.

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