Legislator proposes Small Business Relief Program

By Bee Group Newspapers | on September 10, 2020

FRANK TODARO
Erie County Legislator

For the past several weeks, I have been busy working on initiatives in support of our small business community. Businesses are a vital part of our local economy, and they are suffering because of financial strain related to COVID-19. This is why my colleagues and I are proposing a Small Business Relief Program that would take $22 million in remaining CARES Act funds and divide it among businesses in need throughout Erie County. During these challenging times, it’s important we do our part to help struggling businesses, their owners, and employees.

My colleagues and I in the Legislature’s Minority Caucus sent a letter to County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Legislature Chairwoman April Baskin outlining our proposal, providing a rough draft of a resolution and asking that each of us in county government come together to discuss and finalize a plan that helps small businesses. Right now, we suggest dividing $22 million among the 11 legislative districts in Erie County. This would amount to $2 million per district, with $5,000 to $20,000 grants available to businesses in need.

The following restrictions would apply: Businesses must be located in Erie County, applicants should have a three-year average annual revenue of $7.5 million or less, and applicants must prove lost revenue beginning no earlier than March 2020. The proposed relief package would make grant applications available by Oct. 1, with an application deadline of Oct. 15. An approving agency or department to be determined would then submit all award recommendations to the Erie County Legislature by Nov. 1. Any businesses in which any county elected official or their immediate family has any ownership interest in would not be eligible for this funding.

While this is simply a rough outline of a proposal, Erie County needs to establish a program as soon as possible. If these CARES Act funds aren’t spent by the end of the year, they are returned to the federal government. We can’t waste an opportunity to provide meaningful support to our small business community. As our letter to the county executive and Legislature chairwoman notes, this is the policy we should be working on right now as elected leaders. If we work together, we can get it done.

If you are a small business owner, I would love to hear your thoughts on our proposal. If you have questions, comments, or concerns regarding this or another county-related issue, please feel free to contact my office at Frank.Todaro@erie.gov or by phone at 681-2071.

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