As the national economy adjusts to the COVID-19 pandemic, local businesses may be among some of the hardest hit.
This week state leaders in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania announced that all restaurants and bars would be moving to take-out and delivery services. The measure also resulted in the closure of movie theaters, casinos, gyms, shopping malls, amusement parks and bowling alleys.
The U.S. Small Business Administration has announced emergency loans of up to $2 million in response to the crisis. To receive funding, states have to make a request to the Small Business Administration. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has submitted a request, which is in progress, according to the Greene County Economic Development Corporation.
“The president took bold, decisive action to make our 30 million small businesses more resilient to coronavirus-related economic disruptions,” U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Jovita Carranza said.
“Small businesses are vital economic engines in every community and state, and they have helped make our economy the strongest in the world. Our agency will work directly with state governors to provide targeted, low-interest disaster recovery loans to small businesses that have been severely impacted by the situation, Carranza said.
The SBA will assist small businesses with counseling and navigating their own preparedness plans through a network of 68 district offices and numerous resource partners located around the country.
“The SBA will continue to provide every small business with the most effective and customer-focused response possible during these times of uncertainty,” Carranza said.
The loans are being offered at 3.75% interest for businesses without other credit options and 2.75% for nonprofits, according to the SBA. Businesses with alternative credit options are not eligible. Payment terms vary with a maximum of 30-year loans.
Businesses can use this funding to cover fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other expenses that are being impacted by the virus, according to the SBA.
National Grid has suspended collection-related activities and disconnections. NYSEG and RG&E have also temporarily suspended service shutoffs due to nonpayment, as well as late payment charges. Likewise, New York state has issued a moratorium on housing evictions.
New Yorkers with student debt, medical debt and other state-referred debt will have payments frozen for at least 30 days.
The state Department of Labor has waived the seven-day waiting period on unemployment benefits, and has special provisions for teachers and school workers.
New York has a Shared Work Program, which allows employers to reduce hours of employees and allows the employees to supplement pay with unemployment benefits. The program helps businesses manage business cycles and seasonal adjustments. Shared Work lets companies keep trained staff and avoid layoffs. Employees can receive partial unemployment insurance benefits while working reduced hours. Full-time, part-time and seasonal employees are eligible.
The Greene County Economic Development Corporation is working with several state agencies including Empire State Development and the regional Center For Economic Growth to provide guidance on the SBA funding and will distribute information as it becomes available, according to a press release.
When communities in the state have been approved for funding, information on how to apply will be available on www.SBA.gov/disaster.
The Greene County Chamber of Commerce is encouraging residents to support local businesses that may be affected by the virus.
“The Chamber encourages our businesses and our community to come together with compassion and support for each other,” Greene County Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Friedman wrote in a letter to members. “We must not allow fear to stop us from supporting our neighbors or our local businesses. It has never been more important for each of us to support our fellow business members, especially our small businesses and business sectors most impacted by this global pandemic threat. We encourage you to order from our local restaurants for take-out delivery. We hope you will purchase gift cards from all our local businesses to help tide them over until they can return to normal operations.”
Some local restaurants offering take-out and delivery options include Creekside Catskill within a 10-mile radius, Ambrosia Diner within a five-mile radius, Gracie’s Luncheonette with free local delivery and delivery to Hudson with a $1.50 fee for the toll, The Juice Branch with delivery to the village of Catskill, Hagar’s Harbor Bar & Restaurant with local delivery to Athens, Red Rooster’s Roadhouse with free delivery in the town of Cairo and a $20 minimum, The Avalon Lounge within a seven-mile radius and $15 minimum, Mediterranean Bistro with local delivery to the village of Catskill, Murphy’s Law Public House with a seven-mile radius, The Mermaid Cafe, New York Restaurant, Crossroads Brewing Company in both Catskill and Athens, Barnwood Restaurant, Pomodoro’s Italian Restaurant, Tori G’s Pizzeria and La Conca Doro.
Creekside Catskill owner Sean Meagher hopes that business can return to normal soon, he said.
“We did implement take-out and delivery from 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m.,” Meagher said.
Meagher has reduced his staff by about half.
The restrictions could have an impact on his sales revenue, Meagher said.
“You have to be creative to keep things rolling,” he said. “Hopefully this ends sooner than later and we can return to normal. We’re trying to get by as best we can for now. We have to try to keep our head up and do what we can do.”
Mermaid Cafe manager Ryan Cool said the business is taking steps to reduce contact.
“We’re mainly accepting payments by Venmo, Apple Pay, Google Pay and credit cards,” Cool said. ”We’re trying not to handle cash if we don’t have to.”
Food is left on the customer’s doorstep and any cash tips are left in an envelope, Cool said.
Instead of having two employees on, Cool said he is primarily the only one working with someone else doing deliveries.
“Our sales are pretty low right now,” Cool said. “Today we only made a few orders.”
The Mermaid Cafe is working with Hilo, Circle W and Shook Insurance to set up a free daily soup service for those in need.
Inquiries have been pouring in from local businesses, said F. Michael Tucker, president and CEO of the Columbia County Economic Development Corporation. The CEDC is working to identify federal and state programs and assistance for business owners, which can be found at www.columbiaedc.com/grow-here/covid-19/. The CEDC also offers a Revolving Loan Fund to help local businesses.
“We are working remotely, but effectively, and continuing to be the hub for information and answering individual questions from businesses,” Tucker said. Business owners should contact the CEDC at firstname.lastname@example.org or the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce at 518-828-4417 for more information.
Local restaurants are changing their business model after state leaders mandated all restaurants close their dining rooms. Many are still providing delivery services and taking carry-out orders.
“The focus is for each of us to realize that our purchase is someone else’s income,” Tucker said. “It’s painfully clear to the many people who have been adversely impacted as business owners, but also as employees, who now in many cases, either have been furloughed or laid off, or it’s likely they will be.”
As businesses adapt, Tucker said, taking into context personal situations, patrons should consider what they can do to help.
“We each have to assess what our capacity is to help, but we all need to help by continuing to purchase goods and services, and if possible, contribute to organizations that are in the field providing direct services to those in need,” Tucker said.
The Columbia County Chamber of Commerce is posting messages from local restaurants about carry-out and delivery services on its Facebook page and website, as well as resources for businesses. Patrons are also encouraged to buy online from their favorite shops.
Time & Space Ltd., a nonprofit arts organization on Columbia Street in Hudson, is serving $5 comfort food suppers in place of its regular activities. TSL intends to help those with decreased access to transportation, groceries and affordable meals during a period of increased isolation. Suppers are available to-go or for delivery starting Thursday.
“TSL has a long history of helping those in need,” TSL founder Linda Mussmann said. “We have been here in Hudson located on the North Side of Hudson for nearly 30 years. We have always responded to the needs of our community and especially those who are at risk and in need help during times such as these.”
Samascott’s Garden Market in Kinderhook is offering full-service personal shopping, which means only staff handles produce and grocery items.
“We want to be able to offer fresh, local products for as long as possible and keep contact to a minimum to ensure the safety and health of our community,” Samascott’s said.
Grocery stores, which are experiencing a higher than normal volume, are hiring displaced workers to keep pick up and delivery services running smoothly, restock and clean.
Workers laid off by the outbreak can contact the Columbia County Department of Social Services at 518-828-9411 or go to mybenefits.ny.gov to apply for social service benefits.
Hudson has suspended alternate side parking and use of parking meters. Late fees are waived on all tickets given after Feb. 1, 2020.
Local food pantries are available to help laid-off workers, those who are not financially able to stock up on necessities, and those who regularly use them.
More information on Hudson’s food pantries, such as Catholic Charities Columbia-Greene, Christ Episcopal Church, Columbia Opportunities Food Pantry & Emergency Assistance, Rock Solid Church Food Pantry, Salvation Army Food Pantry, St. Mark’s Lutheran Food Pantry, Zion Community Food Pantry, can be found at cityofhudson.org.
Sarah Trafton and Abby Hoover are reporters for Columbia-Greene Media. Contact them at (518) 828-1616.