Aid Applications for Small Businesses

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When the city said it would offer cash and loans to help businesses navigate the Covid-19 outbreak, firms across the city asked the same question—when?

Applications for programs will start to go live next week — the grant program first, and the loan program after — according to Samantha Keitt, spokesperson in the city’s Small Business Services office. The office is still determining eligibility requirements, Keitt said.

“We’re really trying to help cash-positive businesses who are suffering specifically due to this,” said Keitt, adding that firms that were losing money prior to the coronavirus outbreak may not be eligible.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday that the city would extend interest-free loans of up to $75,000 to small businesses who could demonstrate a 25% revenue loss as a result of coronavirus, as well as direct cash grants to businesses with fewer than five employees. It was welcome news for businesses across the city as the scramble to operate through Covid-19. But since that announcement, the path to accessing that funding has been less clear. Crain’s spoke to firms in New York that tried to apply for the loans this week but find the application was not yet available.

“They’re promising all of these relief packages but there’s no path to that right now, it’s kind of just words,” said Phil Penta, who runs the fresh grocery and produce store, 3 Guys from Brooklyn. He worries that the loans will not be available quickly enough to provide the relief his store may need in upcoming days and weeks.

Keitt said that the City is working as quickly as possible, “We just want to make sure that all of our T’s are crossed,” she said, so that “people don’t fall through the cracks because we rushed to get the program finished.”

And still, some businesses are waiting to gauge the size of the hit to business before they apply for loans—that’s what Marco Chirico, owner of Marco Polo and Enoteca on Court restaurants, said. He says business at both restaurants is down 25% so far this week.

And loans do not offer a way to recoup losses to the bottom line, said Dawn Casale, founder of bakery and caterer One Girl Cookies. She saw every corporate and event order canceled amid the virus.

“I hope something better is down the pike,” like direct grants, she said.

The Mayor’s office reevaluates the situation and what is needed each day, said Keitt. Gregg Bishop, Commissioner of the Small Business Services office, said Monday when the plan was announced that he did not expect most businesses seeking a loan from the City will not apply for the full $75,000.

Published in Crains by Gwen Everett