COVID relief grant program for businesses opens Thursday; money may not be taxed

Originally published in Newsday on June 09, 2021.

Applications will be accepted starting Thursday for $800 million in state grants to help the smallest businesses recover from the pandemic – and the money may not be taxed by Albany.

The State Legislature is expected to approve a proposal from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to exempt the COVID-19 Pandemic Small Business Recovery Grant Program from state income tax.

Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck), chairwoman of the small business committee, and Michael Whyland, a spokesman for the Assembly’s Democratic majority, both said on Tuesday that the bill will be voted on before the legislature’s regular session ends on Thursday.

Cuomo, in announcing the legislation to make the COVID-19 relief grants exempt from state tax, said the measure will ensure that "we can get every single dollar into the pockets of businesses and help rebuild New York’s economy."

The grants of between $5,000 and $50,000 are available to micro businesses and small arts and cultural organizations.

The money will serve as reimbursement of employee wages, rent and mortgage payments, taxes, utility bills and other operating expenses from the pandemic, between March 1, 2020 and April 1, 2021. Also reimbursable is the purchase of masks, gloves, face shields and other personal protective equipment and improvements to ventilation systems to slow the coronavirus’ spread during the period.

The grant amount will be based on the applicant’s 2019 gross receipts.

More information may be found at NYSBusinessRecovery.ny.gov.

Cuomo estimated on Tuesday that more than 330,000 firms are eligible for the grants. He said priority will be given to applications from businesses that are owned by women, veterans and members of minority groups or located in poor neighborhoods.