Business groups to spread word about pandemic-recovery aid
The smallest businesses and those owned by members of minority groups or new immigrants often require the most help to recover from COVID-19 but know the least about available aid programs, officials said.
To bridge the information divide, the LI Main Street Alliance, a coalition of 45 downtowns undergoing revitalization, has launched an educational campaign aimed at reaching at least 3,000 businesses in Nassau and Suffolk counties within the next year.
The campaign, which involves knocking on doors and assisting entrepreneurs to apply for aid programs from governments and utilities, is being funded with a $150,000 grant from National Grid.
The money will be split by 10 chambers of commerce and also pay for a full-time, bilingual person to meet with business owners, said Eric Alexander, the alliance’s founder.
“It’s a challenging environment for small businesses with the coronavirus and now rising costs for food and fuel,” he said in announcing the new initiative at the Wyandanch Public Library on Wednesday. “There have been grant programs out there, but a lot of working people don’t know how to access them.”
Alexander and others said the campaign will initially help local business owners to apply for the remaining $300 million in New York State’s COVID-19 Pandemic Small Business Recovery Grant Program and a $200 million Seed Funding Program proposed by Gov. Kathy Hochul. The campaign also will raise awareness about grants and energy-saving programs from National Grid, PSEG Long Island and LIPA.
“There’s money on the table and we know a lot of folks don’t know about it,” Alexander said.
Melanie Littlejohn, vice president of customer and community engagement at National Grid, agreed: “We need to take information to people where they are, in a way they can use it as part of doing their business. This is the beginning, to share information and resources with businesses to not only sustain them but to grow them,” she said.
Among the campaign participants is the Greater Wyandanch Chamber of Commerce, which will begin contacting businesses in the coming weeks, according to president Ghenya Grant.
Brooklyn Fish, Chicken & Soul Food, a takeout place on Straight Path, is on the list of visits.
Manager Jarred Marrow said he and his father, Harvey, want to learn about the aid programs. “I think this is a great idea,” he said.
Brooklyn Fish didn’t receive help from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loan program or the Restaurant Revitalization Fund grant program. But Marrow said if the eatery was awarded a grant, it would go toward buying new appliances and a second cash register.
Besides the Wyandanch chamber, the other participants include the Central Islip Coalition of Good Neighbors, Hempstead Chamber of Commerce, Long Island African American Chamber of Commerce, Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce, New York South Asian Chamber of Commerce and Riverhead Chamber of Commerce.
Debra Cavanagh, president of the Central Islip group, praised the campaign’s commitment to provide information in multiple languages.
“There is a major language barrier and a lot of people didn’t take advantage of [the PPP] because of it,” she said.
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