On Monday, State senator Kevin Thomas (D-Levittown) said there is a new pandemic-relief program aimed at helping the smallest businesses that opened in the past three years with a total of $200 million in grant funding. Credit: Newsday/Howard Schnapp

The state has begun taking applications for a new $200 million pandemic-relief grant program designed to help the smallest businesses that opened in the past four years, including COVID-era startups, officials said.

The Seed Funding Grant Program will provide up to $25,000 per applicant based on its annual gross receipts in 2020 or last year. The minimum award will be $5,000.

Small businesses must have opened on or after Sept. 1, 2018, and still be operating. They cannot have more than 100 employees.

Businesses also must have gross receipts of not more than $1 million per year as reported on their most recent federal tax return. Applicants that haven’t yet filed a tax return must show at least $5,000 in business expenses, according to the program guidelines.

The grants are needed locally, according to Eric Alexander, founder of the Long Island Main Street Alliance, which represents 45 downtowns that are undergoing redevelopment.

“Local businesses that formed during the coronavirus shutdowns and regulations [in 2020] were at a disadvantage in accessing public aid. Since then inflation, [disruption of] supply chains, worker shortages and other regulations have slowed down any robust economic recovery,” he said.

Alexander, together with elected officials and leaders of chambers of commerce, held a news conference at Farmingdale Village Hall on Monday to encourage small-business owners to apply for the new program.

Luis Vasquez, president of the 300-member Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said, “Grants are one way to help increase business funding for Hispanic and minority business owners, along with aiding the revitalization of the economy in the aftermath of the pandemic.”

Julie Marchesella, owner of Queen of Hearts Inc., a Merrick boutique that sells plus-size formalwear for women, agreed, adding that small brick-and-mortar retailers have closed because the pandemic led consumers to make more purchases online.

“These grants will give the remaining stores in our downtowns an opportunity to continue without a huge debt load … They will be able to sustain and rehire already-trained employees as well as purchase inventory,” said Marchesella, who also serves as legislative chairperson for the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce.

Gov. Kathy Hochul and the State Legislature established the seed grants in the 2022-23 state budget to assist those that don’t qualify for the state’s $800 million COVID-19 Pandemic Small Business Recovery Grant Program. That initiative began last year and will end on Sept. 30.

The new program also is meant to help firms that are still struggling despite having received Paycheck Protection Program loans of less than $251,000 or COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans and other federal pandemic aid.

Lendistry, the California-based lender that was hired by New York State to distribute the seed grants, “knows how to get the funds where they’re needed most,” said CEO Everett K. Sands.

He and others said the grants may be used for costs incurred between Sept. 1, 2018, and Jan. 1, 2022, including payroll, rent and mortgage payments, utility bills and expenses related to slowing the coronavirus’ spread, the guidelines state.

For-profit arts and cultural organizations also may receive funding, said Hope Knight, CEO of Empire State Development, the state’s primary business-aid agency. 

There is no application deadline, but an ESD spokeswoman said on Monday that "applicants are encouraged to apply as soon as possible." More information is available at https://nyseedgrant.com/

The state has begun taking applications for a new $200 million pandemic-relief grant program designed to help the smallest businesses that opened in the past four years, including COVID-era startups, officials said.

The Seed Funding Grant Program will provide up to $25,000 per applicant based on its annual gross receipts in 2020 or last year. The minimum award will be $5,000.

Small businesses must have opened on or after Sept. 1, 2018, and still be operating. They cannot have more than 100 employees.

Businesses also must have gross receipts of not more than $1 million per year as reported on their most recent federal tax return. Applicants that haven’t yet filed a tax return must show at least $5,000 in business expenses, according to the program guidelines.

The grants are needed locally, according to Eric Alexander, founder of the Long Island Main Street Alliance, which represents 45 downtowns that are undergoing redevelopment.

“Local businesses that formed during the coronavirus shutdowns and regulations [in 2020] were at a disadvantage in accessing public aid. Since then inflation, [disruption of] supply chains, worker shortages and other regulations have slowed down any robust economic recovery,” he said.

Alexander, together with elected officials and leaders of chambers of commerce, held a news conference at Farmingdale Village Hall on Monday to encourage small-business owners to apply for the new program.

Luis Vasquez, president of the 300-member Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said, “Grants are one way to help increase business funding for Hispanic and minority business owners, along with aiding the revitalization of the economy in the aftermath of the pandemic.”

Julie Marchesella, owner of Queen of Hearts Inc., a Merrick boutique that sells plus-size formalwear for women, agreed, adding that small brick-and-mortar retailers have closed because the pandemic led consumers to make more purchases online.

“These grants will give the remaining stores in our downtowns an opportunity to continue without a huge debt load … They will be able to sustain and rehire already-trained employees as well as purchase inventory,” said Marchesella, who also serves as legislative chairperson for the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce.

Gov. Kathy Hochul and the State Legislature established the seed grants in the 2022-23 state budget to assist those that don’t qualify for the state’s $800 million COVID-19 Pandemic Small Business Recovery Grant Program. That initiative began last year and will end on Sept. 30.

The new program also is meant to help firms that are still struggling despite having received Paycheck Protection Program loans of less than $251,000 or COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans and other federal pandemic aid.

Lendistry, the California-based lender that was hired by New York State to distribute the seed grants, “knows how to get the funds where they’re needed most,” said CEO Everett K. Sands.

He and others said the grants may be used for costs incurred between Sept. 1, 2018, and Jan. 1, 2022, including payroll, rent and mortgage payments, utility bills and expenses related to slowing the coronavirus’ spread, the guidelines state.

For-profit arts and cultural organizations also may receive funding, said Hope Knight, CEO of Empire State Development, the state’s primary business-aid agency. 

There is no application deadline, but an ESD spokeswoman said on Monday that "applicants are encouraged to apply as soon as possible." More information is available at https://nyseedgrant.com/

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