New state program offers $800 million in pandemic assistance to businesses

State Sen. Michelle Hinchey speaks outside of Inquiring Minds Bookstore and Coffeehouse in Saugerties earlier today. (Photo by Brian Hubert)

Small businesses across the region and New York State will be able to apply for up to $50,000 in COVID-19 recovery grants as part of a new $800 million dollar state program starting Thursday, June 10.

State Senator Michelle Hinchey (D-Saugerties) announced the program, officially known as The New York State Small Business Recovery Grant Program, today in a press conference held outside the Inquiring Minds Bookstore at the corner of Main and Partition streets in Saugerties. Funding for the program was secured as part of this year’s state budget.


The senator was joined by Inquiring Minds owner Brian Donaghue, Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce president Ward Todd, Greene County Chamber of Commerce president and executive director Jeff Friedman.

“As we all know this pandemic opened the floodgates to a series of overlapping crises, a health crisis and also an economic crisis that has uprooted our way of life and brought much of our economy to a screeching halt,” Hinchey said. “I know this has been an unimaginably difficult and uncertain time for so many of our small businesses, business owners, their employees and their families.

Hinchey said more than 330,000 small businesses are eligible for these funds.The funds can be put towards expenses incurred between March 1, 2020, and April 1, 2021, including payroll costs mortgages, local property or school taxes, utilities and much more, the senator said.

She said special priority will be given to Minority/Women-Owned Business Enterprise, “MWBE” registered businesses. And she recommended any businesses that fit the requirements for MWBE status and are not already registered to contact her office for help signing up.

Hinchey praised small businesses thanking them for holding communities across the area together by donating meals to those in need and pivoting to making PPE when supplies were short. “And some even kept their doors open so that people could access WiFi from a car outside the store,” the senator said.

Eligible small businesses must have 100 or fewer employees. The program is also open to small for-profit independent arts and cultural organizations.

Todd said this relief package couldn’t come at a better time.

“Small businesses, these main streets merchants here and throughout our region kind of fly under the radar,” Todd said. “You don’t see the difficulties they’re having. They don’t have big staff, they don’t have elaborate offices, they just work hard every day of the week.”

Even a grant of $5,000 to $10,000 could save the day for a sole proprietor or a small-business owner, Todd said.

Standing outside of the doors to his bookstore and coffee shop, Donaghue recalled how last year he was thinking long and hard about what he could do to survive the pandemic.

“I met with my staff, I met with my family and after 20 years we thought we might have to close,” Donaghue said. He said that thanks to state and federal assistance, the business survived, and he encouraged all small business owners to apply to this most recent program.

“It looks like the economy is coming along right now, but if we’ve learned anything the future is uncertain,” he said.

For more information about the program, visit the landing page on the Empire State Development site.

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