Albany launches COVID-19 grant program to support small businesses


ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Small businesses across Albany could soon see thousands of dollars in relief aid, thanks to a new program the city announced Monday. Local owners may have thrown open their doors for the new business as usual amid COVID-19, but they say their struggles aren’t over.

“It’s scary. You don’t know what’s going to happen next. I mean for all we know, cases could spike again. We could be in a situation where we might be mandated to lock our doors again,” says Annie Berdar, owner of BARE Blends in Stuyvesant Plaza.

“Obviously, the patios have been great, extended sidewalk patios have been amazing. It makes Lark Street a true destination, but when the snow starts flying, businesses are going to be scrambling,” says Patrick Noonan, owner, El Loco and chairman of Lark Street BID.

The Downtown Albany BID reports businesses have lost around 70 percent of their usual income and have only been able to hold onto around 50 percent of their staff. Monday, Mayor Kathy Sheehan and local leaders announced the new Small Business Adaptation Program. It will share $500,000 between those businesses still in need, even after federal Paycheck Protection Program loans.

“We knew that there was going to be a need for funding that was more flexible and that was connecting to our businesses that weren’t able to access PPP money or maybe weren’t able to get enough,” says Mayor Sheehan.

“There are definitely a lot of hidden clauses in there. You can’t use it for rent, you can’t use it for PPE, you can’t use it for a lot of the overhead costs that food service businesses face,” Berdar explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.

“We’ve been preparing for recovery since the pandemic began,” Sheehan goes on to say. “We’ve really been laser focused on how we ensure that the small businesses here in the city of Albany have access to federal funds.”

The Small Business Adaptation Program will help owners who apply buy the PPE they need to reopen, fund training for employees, restock lost goods, cover the costs to reorganize around social distancing, and fund programs that help adapt operations to the new way of life.

“This money will allow these businesses to get back to pre-COVID staffing levels. It would allow them to be creative and to find new revenue sources and new revenue streams,” explains Downtown Albany BID Executive Director Georgette Steffens.

Businesses with fewer than 50 employees will receive up to $10,000 and women, minority, and veteran-owned businesses are eligible for up to $20,000. Mayor Sheehan says 54 percent of all the businesses in the Lark Street corridor are made up of minority and women ownership.

“Lark Street is home to a large group of businesses looking to re-organize and re-imagine their operations to meet new market demands, and I want to ensure that the city of Albany is helping them to be able to succeed,” she says.

Our Albany entrepreneurs say they’re grateful for the help keeping them afloat, both from the city and from loyal customers shopping local.

“This grant program is going to create the difference between businesses staying open and businesses closing,” says Noonan.

“There are businesses that are struggling right now, and it’s up to us to kind of spread the love,” says Berdar.

The Small Business Adaptation Program was made possible through flexible community development block grant funds applied for by the Albany Community Development Agency and City of Albany Industrial Development Agency.

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