State Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck) and local officials outlined $1 billion in the state budget to aid small businesses last week.

Kaplan, who chairs the state Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Economic Development and Small Business, said she was proud to fight for state funds that will be distributed to the county’s small businesses.

“The pandemic has been devastating to New York’s small business community, and they need our help if they’re going to survive these challenging times,” Kaplan said. “I’m proud to have fought to bring back over a billion dollars in grants and other assistance for our small businesses in the state budget.”

Featured in the budget are $800 million in state grants, which are part of the COVID-19 Pandemic Small Business Recovery Grant Program targeted to provide financial aid to businesses with 100 or fewer employees and microbusinesses with 10 or fewer employees. The funds, which do not need to be repaid, can be used to pay rent, mortgage costs, payroll, insurance, utilities and other operational expenditures.

The state also allocated $60 million to provide relief for restaurants that were impacted by the pandemic’s restrictions. The budget featured $35 million in refundable tax credits for restaurants that fell prey to the extended indoor dining ban. Another $25 million was allocated to restaurants that provide meals to those in economically disadvantaged communities.

Another $40 million in state grants will be distributed to the state’s nonprofit arts programs for mortgage, rent and operational expenditures. The program, officials said, will be overseen by the state’s Council on the Arts.

“This will allow the shops in our downtowns, arts and entertainment venues and many others recover and bring back jobs,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said. “We are on the other side of this pandemic and support like this, coupled with our robust vaccine rollout, will fast-track us on our road to recovery.”

Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss and Roslyn Trustee Sarah Oral thanked Kaplan for her efforts and spoke on the importance of relief for local businesses in their villages.

“Given the changing nature of our national and global economies, small businesses, and the families they support, are often struggling just to remain viable and competitive,” Strauss said. “In the last decade or so, Mineola has experienced a downtown revitalization through the efforts of our village government working together with our local businesses.”

“We’re so happy that New York State has enacted the COVID-19 Pandemic Small Business Recovery Grant Program to help our local businesses, the true backbones of our communities,” Oral said. “The resources that will be provided will help make our business owners whole and will make the transition to post-COVID operations easier for everyone.”

Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island and the Long Island Main Street Alliance, said at a recent Blank Slate Media forum that most downtowns in Nassau had lost an average of three stores during the COVID-19 pandemic, but that foot traffic had continued due to a “mass exodus” from New York City at the pandemic’s outset.

“Local businesses are working to build back from the impact of coronavirus regulations,” he said. “These grants available from NYS can begin to level the playing field as we work towards a recovery that helps our local communities.”

Kaplan said Empire State Development, the state’s business aid agency, is in the process of implementing regulations for the grant program.

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