Hours after Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed all non-essential businesses to cease in-person functions, U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, discussed relief for his district's small businesses, farmers and the unemployed workers during a telephone town hall Friday night.
Delgado's priority is supporting small businesses as they navigate the COVID-19 crisis, he said Friday.
“What we don’t want is to get through this dynamic and we have to stand up our businesses because we couldn’t figure out how to build a dam now,” he said.
Delgado was joined on the call by officials and health care professionals from several counties in the 19th District.
A caller from Columbia County told Delgado her small businesses had no revenue this month and asked the congressman what help she could expect from the government.
All small businesses in the state are eligible for Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the Small Business Administration, Delgado said. The loans can be used to cover debts, payroll and other expenses related to loss of revenue during the shutdown, according to the SBA’s website.
“Get your application in queue. The volume is high right now,” said Dan Rickman, a deputy director at the SBA office in Syracuse, who joined Delgado on the call.
Delgado also urged small business owners to look for local assistance at www.sba.gov/localassistance.
Delgado, who is a member of the House Small Business Committee, pointed to legislation he introduced Thursday that, if passed, would waive Small Business Administration loan payments for six months.
Businesses need the resources to be ready to operate again when the economy turns around, he said.
Small- and mid-size farmers also need relief legislation, added Delgado, who is a member of the House Agriculture Committee.
“Our farmers are facing a lot of challenges during these unprecedented times,” he said.
Delgado penned a letter to House leadership on Thursday urging them to take into account farmers struggling with the loss of markets. In the letter, Delgado said small farmers are in a “perilous position” and lack “the support of conventional farm safety net programs such as commodity support initiatives and crop insurance.”
A caller from Otsego said his unemployment benefits are set to expire soon and asked Delgado if benefits could be extended during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which passed the House and the Senate, was signed into law by President Donald Trump on Wednesday, which Delgado called a “first step.” But it didn’t go far enough, he said.
Relief legislation must extend beyond 26 weeks of benefits, he said.
“I am urging leadership to do more in the next coronavirus package to help folks that are desperately in need of a safety net,” Delgado said.
All but one of the counties in Delgado’s 19th district have reported positive cases of COVID-19.
Two callers asked about getting tested for COVID-19 coronavirus and the shortage of testing kits.
Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro, who joined Delgado on the call, said Dutchess and Ulster counties would begin providing COVID-19 tests at mobile sites from a private health care provider as soon as Tuesday.
“Testing is important, but what is equally important is having people triage themselves and not overburden our healthcare system,” Molinaro said.
“The only way to get clarity is to increase testing,” Delgado said, but he noted that accessing testing kits has been a problem.
The congressman said he is hopeful, despite the worsening crisis.
“I have great faith that we will get though this together," he said. "I know how much we care about our communities and care about each other."