By Amanda Fries
Times Union, Albany, N.Y.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Small business owners who are struggling to survive amidst COVID_19 will now have one more way to access funding. Local Industrial Development Agencies are now able to offer financing (grants/low-interest loans) to smaller operators particularly women-, minority- and immigrant-owned businesses.
While billions of federal dollars remain available to small businesses, New York entrepreneurs now have an additional avenue to access coronavirus pandemic recovery funds through local industrial development agencies.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed a bill into law a week ago that allows local IDAs to provide no-interest loans to small businesses financially crippled during the height of COVID-19 cases in New York, a mechanism that builds on programs Cuomo announced in May to assist small businesses that have not received federal aid.
How the IDA loan program will work, however, remains uncertain, and local agency leaders said they’re fine-tuning their respective approaches.
Sarah Reginelli, the president of Capitalize Albany and CEO of the city’s Industrial Development Agency, said its staff is working with other local agencies to determine the best way to leverage the newly approved IDA authority with other resources available to businesses.
Bob Pasinella, who leads Rensselaer County’s IDA, said he envisions providing grants to small businesses. He said the IDA aims to make at least $250,000 available and is working with other agencies to facilitate the program.
“We want to get this money out as quickly as possible,” he said. “I’d like to keep it as simple as possible, too.”
State legislators have held public hearings with business owners to discuss the challenges they’ve faced in accessing the federal government’s forgivable Paycheck Protection Program, including a Wednesday session that took testimony from 25 business owners and trade groups.
Many who testified confirmed that the first round of federal aid was hampered by rollout glitches and large companies that snagged the funds before Main Street businesses got a chance. The second round has proven more successful for smaller operators, but thousands still struggle to access the aid — particularly women-, minority- and immigrant-owned businesses.
“The second round was … still not enough,” said Lisa Sorin, president of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce. “The main reasons are the language barriers and the way some businesses do their banking and financials because they are so small and immigrant-based, and nothing of that sort has been taken into account.”
While over 300,000 loans through the federal program have been provided to businesses in New York, it’s unclear which businesses have benefited.
The U.S. Small Business Administration is expected to release a list in the future.
Recognizing those discrepancies, New York in May launched a loan fund for small businesses. The program focuses on minority- and women-owned businesses, targeting those businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 20 employees and less than $3 million in gross revenues. It also includes small landlords who have seen lost income, according to Empire State Development.
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