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Small firms, for-profit arts groups have a few weeks to seek pandemic grants

Businessscape along Main Street, May 1, 2021 in

Businessscape along Main Street, May 1, 2021 in Islip, N.Y.  Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Small businesses and small for-profit arts and cultural organizations have a few more weeks to apply for a share of $800 million in pandemic-relief grants from New York State, officials said.

"We will continue to accept applications in the next few weeks and then make a decision on when we should halt the program," said Pravina Raghavan, an executive vice president at Empire State Development, the state’s primary business-aid agency.

ESD is overseeing the new COVID-19 Pandemic Small Business Recovery Grant Program, which began taking applications last month.

ESD has received more than 70,000 grant applications so far, totaling more than $1 billion, Raghavan said last week in a report to the ESD board. Applications have come from every county and reflect the population makeup of the state.

"New York City isn’t dominating," she said.

The program, which was established in the 2021-22 state budget, offers grants of between $5,000 and $50,000. The amount is based on the applicant’s 2019 gross receipts. They must have 100 or fewer employees.

More information may be found at nysmallbusinessrecovery.com.

"We are looking at applications and making awards," Raghavan said, adding that among the diverse group of grant seekers are many dry cleaners, retailers, child care centers and personal service firms.

"We are still taking in applications because we know there are still small businesses that need time to get the information in," she said, referring to income tax returns, utility bills, leases and other proof of the business’ physical location and bank account information.

ESD uses the documents to combat potential fraud.

Grant funds may be used for payroll, rent or mortgage payments, taxes, insurance, utility bills, personal protective equipment for employees and ventilation equipment to comply with COVID-19 health and safety protocols, among other expenses.

Separately, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie issued a reminder to applicants that the ESD grants aren’t subject to the state corporate franchise tax and personal income tax because of a bill signed into law last month by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The new law ensures "the small businesses that received this critical funding are able to keep the grant money that helped them keep their doors open, and stay on the road to recovery," Heastie said.

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