BY BENJAMIN FANG
The Queens Chamber of Commerce met via Zoom with the new commissioner of the Department of Small Business Services (SBS) to discuss how the city will help businesses recover from the current crisis. Jonnel Doris, who took over for former SBS head Gregg Bishop in mid-May, said the agency has been connecting small businesses with capital, technical assistance and other one-on-one support services.
SBS will also connect small businesses to other opportunities for aide, such as Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recently announced $100 million New York Forward Loan Fund. The program will provide flexible and affordable loans, with a special focus on minority and women-owned small businesses, that did not receive federal assistance.
Doris noted that the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) still has $100 billion left in the initiative.
“We want to encourage folks to ask if your banker can connect you to that resource,” he said. “If not, we will help you find a bank to do that.”
The new SBS commissioner said while he’s concerned about all sectors of the economy, he’s most worried about local retail and the restaurant industry. He praised recently signed city legislation that caps third-party food delivery fees, designates threatening a commercial tenant based on COVID-19 status a form of harassment, and protects commercial tenants’ personal assets during the crisis. Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the bill on May 26, and it will go into effect in early June.
“Those are critical,” he said. “We’ve done some good things on that side for restaurants.”
Doris also discussed the issue of equity, which he said is a word that keeps coming up in advisory council meetings about reopening New York City’s economy. He said equity of access, opportunity and resources will be required for large and small businesses. Those opportunities should also be available for different types of businesses, including immigrant-owned businesses.
“The word keeps coming up because folks are concerned about how we bring businesses back, that we’re doing it in a way that is equitable,” he said. “That everybody has a shot, not just some people.”
As the city prepares the reopening process, SBS is preparing industry-wide rules and regulations that it will release “in the next week or so,” Doris said. The agency will also host industry webinars and trainings to walk businesses through the process.
“We will have specific guidelines and things you should be doing as a business owner,” he said. He added that the challenge for small businesses will be meeting demand, as well as all the new protocols. “You have to begin to get ready to make sure you have the resources you need,” Doris said.