ABOVE: Borough President Donovan Richards and EDC CEO James Patchett speak with a business owner in Jackson Heights.
BY BENJAMIN FANG
To aid Queens small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis, city officials on Monday launched a $15 million grant program. The initiative will allow Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) to provide eligible minority-owned small businesses and vendors located in low- and moderate-income communities (LMI) up to $20,000 to support operational expenses.
The city is expected to dedicate 30 percent of the grants for restaurants and street vendors, while an additional $2.5 million of support will be allocated later this year.
“Small business owners have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and they deserve all the help our city can give them to get back on their feet and serve their communities,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our communities,” added EDC president and CEO James Patchett, “and their success is key to the city’s long-term economic recovery.”
To be eligible, applicants must be located in an LMI zip code in Queens or a COVID-19 “hardest-hit” zone. They must be a restaurant, retail or a personal service business located on the first or second floor.
Qualifying businesses must also have employed 20 or fewer full-time employees in 2019, and have earned gross revenue of $1 million or less that year. Restaurants that wish to participate must have earned less than $3 million or less in gross revenue. Finally, participating small businesses must have filed 2019 personal and business tax returns, and have no open tax liens or unresolved judgements.
“No borough has been hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic and its disastrous economic fallout than Queens,” Richards said, “where countless small businesses, and the thousands of families those entities support through local hiring, are facing unprecedented uncertainty through no fault of their own.”
The grant program was made possible by a $17.5 million donation from New York Mets owner Steve Cohen, who noted in a statement that COVID has had a devastating impact on small businesses.
“As the owner of the Mets, we are proud to support small business owners during this difficult time, just as they have supported the team and the community over the years,” Cohen said. “We hope this donation brings them some relief.”
Pursuit, the Long Island City-based training nonprofit organization, will administer the grant program in partnership with local community organizations such as BOC Capital, Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, Renaissance EDC and the Queens Chamber of Commerce.
In a statement, Tom Grech, president and CEO of the Queens Chamber, called the grant program “a grand slam” that will resonate across the entire borough.
“These cherished institutions add character to our neighborhoods, and create jobs and opportunities for Queens residents,” Grech said. “We must do everything in our power to help them make ends meet.”