Op-Ed: Supporting small business through aid programs is supporting NY

Originally published in Ken-Ton Bee

As we in New York continue our recovery from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our small businesses are an integral part of building our region and state back economically. There are many well-funded programs available to help business owners in New York recover from revenue losses caused by the pandemic.

The state has set aside $800 million for the COVID-19 Pandemic Small Business Recovery Grant Program. These tax-free grants provide relief to small businesses throughout the state that incurred COVID-related expenses. The program reimburses a wide range of vital business expenses, including mortgage and rent payments, payroll, utilities, insurance, and most expenses used to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

In a time where many restaurants have expressed difficulty in staffing, New York will soon launch the Restaurant Return-to-Work Tax Credit Program. Restaurant owners who suffered significant revenue loss during the pandemic can receive up to $50,000 in tax credits for hiring full-time workers. This program was designed for businesses hit hardest by pandemic restrictions, so restaurants located in areas that were designated as red or orange zones for at least 30 consecutive days are eligible.

With many other state and federal programs available, figuring out which ones your business is eligible for can be a little daunting. Luckily, Empire State Development has launched an online portal to help business owners figure out which pandemic recovery programs they can apply to. That page can be found under the Business Pandemic Recovery Initiative at esd.ny.gov.

In addition to supporting the establishment of these state COVID-recovery initiatives, one of my priorities in Albany this year has been to expand existing programs aimed at supporting small businesses in New York.

In 2011, the New York Power Authority launched the ReCharge NY program, which provides low-cost power to businesses in exchange for commitments such as remaining in the state, growing employment, expanding operations, or making significant local investments in their businesses.

As part of the program, NYPA had allocated 100 megawatts of low-cost power to small businesses and nonprofit organizations. But the program has been so popular that it quickly became oversubscribed. With those 100 megawatts accounted for, I sponsored a bill – which was signed into law earlier this month – that raised the amount of ReCharge NY power available to small businesses to 150 megawatts. This will open the program up to more small businesses in our state and allow them to join the nearly 700 participants currently enrolled statewide.

Even before the pandemic hit, many small businesses throughout our state were already operating on tight margins. We know that supporting these businesses is supporting New York. As state legislators, we will continue to seek out ways to assist the local businesses that will fuel our state’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.