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State's new $100M loan program aims to help NY's smallest businesses

With many business closed because of the pandemic,

With many business closed because of the pandemic, the streets of Port Jefferson, and the rest of Long Island, have been a lot quieter.  Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Up to $18 million in low-interest loans will be made to Long Island’s smallest small businesses, nonprofits and residential landlords from the $100 million New York Forward Loan Fund, according to state guidelines. 

The loans are meant to help borrowers recover from the coronavirus pandemic and shutdown of nonessential activity, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said last month. He said priority will be given to minority- and women-owned businesses and small landlords whose property is in poor neighborhoods.

More than 8,000 loan applications have been received statewide since May 26, when the program began, a state spokeswoman said Tuesday. On Monday, five Community Development Financial Institutions, or CDFIs, began processing the applications to ensure the funds are available as the economy reopens. 

Officials at the National Development Council said they are reviewing applications from the Island’s businesses and nonprofits, while the Community Preservation Corp. is considering applications from landlords across the state. Both CDFIs are based in Manhattan.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for small businesses and nonprofits that have been left behind by the Paycheck Protection Program” loans, which are federally guaranteed, said Ann M. Finnegan, president of the development council’s Community Impact Loan Fund. She and her staff will make the Forward loans with money raised by New York State from six banks and four foundations, including BNB Bank in Bridgehampton.

Forward loans are “much more flexible than the PPP,” which are mainly for payroll expenses. “Entrepreneurs and nonprofits can use the money to bring employees back, to buy inventory, pay bills, buy personal protection equipment and pay to do modifications to their space so employees and customers feel safe,” she said last week in a public meeting with Suffolk County officials.

Eligible businesses and nonprofits must have 20 or fewer employees. Businesses should have gross revenue of less than $3 million. Landlords must have fewer than 50 apartments in each building and own no more than 200 apartments in total.

Borrowers are ineligible for Forward loans if they received a PPP loan or Economic Injury Disaster Loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration this year. The application can be found at connect2capital.com/partners/new-york-forward-loan-fund.

Forward loans are for up to $100,000 with an interest rate of 3% for businesses and landlords, and 2% for nonprofits. The loans aren’t forgivable, but borrowers have five years to pay them back with the first year being only interest payments. No collateral is required.

On Long Island, about $11.7 million in Forward loans are reserved for small businesses; $5.4 million for landlords and $900,000 for nonprofits, based on loan guidelines from Empire State Development, the state’s primary business-aid agency, and the state Homes and Community Renewal agency.

The guidelines also require counties to contribute to the Forward loan fund, which helps determine the amount earmarked for each county.

Nassau County is contributing a total of $500,000 from its Local Economic Assistance Corp. and Office of Community Development. So, the county is eligible for at least $10 million in Forward loans, according to Kevin Gremse, who leads the development council’s activities on the East Coast. Suffolk County is contributing $250,000 from its Economic Development Corp. and is eligible for a minimum of $5 million. 

“This isn’t first come, first serve,” Gremse told Suffolk officials last week. “The state wants to make sure there is money in every phase of reopening [the economy] and in every industry.”

Natalie Wright, of the Suffolk development corporation, and Richard Kessel, of the Nassau assistance corporation, said they are anxious for the Forward loans to reach hard-hit businesses on Main Streets. 

Kessel said Cuomo’s stay-at-home order to slow the coronavirus’ spread has had “a devastating impact on small businesses. …Some of them may not be able to reopen, and many of them are finding it difficult to afford the PPE necessary to make their employees and customers feel safe.”

NY FORWARD LOANS

Who is eligible: Small businesses and nonprofits with 20 or fewer employees that haven't received federal COVID-19 grants and loans, and landlords of buildings with fewer than 50 apartments.

Who gets priority? Minority- and women-owned businesses and landlords in poor neighborhoods will get priority.

Loan terms: Up to $100,000 with an interest rate of 3% for small businesses and landlords; 2% for nonprofits. Loans are not forgivable; borrowers have up to five years to repay. No collateral is required.

Available funding: $100 million; up to $18 million on Long Island.

Where does the money come from: Six banks, four foundations and New York counties.

How to apply: Go to connect2capital.com/partners/new-york-forward-loan-fund.

SOURCES: Empire State Development, NYS Homes and Community Renewal agency, National Development Council, Nassau County Local Economic Assistance Corp., Suffolk County Economic Development Corp.

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