“America’s smallest businesses are the heart of local economies, and they urgently need assistance to survive the economic crisis caused by this pandemic,” Sen. Gillibrand said.
By Michael V. Cusenza
Federal elected officials in both chambers on Friday called to increase grant funding for neighborhood and micro-businesses burdened by the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Saving Our Street Act would support local economies and businesses by establishing a Microbusiness Assistance Fund to provide the resources and direct money needed to offset lost revenues and increased costs. The bulk of the funding would be dedicated to historically underrepresented businesses, including minority-owned businesses, according to U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)
The SOS Act:
Establishes a Microbusiness Assistance Fund of $124.5 billion to provide up to $250,000 directly to small “micro” businesses: Targeted to “micro” businesses with fewer than 10 employees; businesses with at least half of their employees from the community and within a low-income community may have up to 20 employees.
Will help neighborhood businesses put people back to work: Can be used for essentials like payroll, rent, utilities, insurance, and personal protective equipment; employers must maintain prior levels of health benefits for employees; essential businesses may use funding to provide hazard pay for employees.
Reserved for those who truly need help: Businesses earning more than $1 million in revenue are prohibited from receiving grants; nonprofits with less than $500,000 in gross receipts and fewer than 10 employees; excludes publicly traded and hedge fund-owned businesses; recipient businesses must provide financial statements to demonstrate true need; funds cannot be used to pay salaries over $100,000.
75 percent of the funding goes to historically underrepresented businesses, including minority-owned businesses: $300 million to nonprofit and community organizations assisting small business owners; $50 million for minority business centers to provide technical assistance and online training; $50 million for centers supporting small and women owned businesses.
The SOS Act requires a report detailing the ethnicity, race, industry, geographical demographics, and sex of applicants for grants, Gillibrand noted.
“America’s smallest businesses are the heart of local economies, and they urgently need assistance to survive the economic crisis caused by this pandemic,” the senator added. “The outbreak of COVID-19 has decreased revenue for many neighborhood businesses, but their bills are piling up. This critical grant funding will help keep their doors open.”
The new proposal comes about a week after U.S. Rep. Grace Meng’s (D-Flushing) call for the next COVID-19 relief bill to provide critical and needed assistance for the approximately 13,000 bodegas, ethnic grocery stores, and small independent supermarkets, many of which are located throughout the five boroughs.
In a letter to House leaders, Meng sought direct help for these local establishments by requesting grants for refrigeration units, connections with farms, hazard pay for frontline employees, and exempting wages from federal income taxes. Her correspondence also seeks assistance for members of the public who shop at these retailers which would in-turn help those businesses. These requests include increased funding for food assistance, providing stimulus checks to individuals with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers, and allowing unemployment insurance regardless of citizenship status.
“Small grocers provide a unique access point to ensure that those who are food insecure can purchase healthy foods and fresh produce,” Meng wrote in her missive.