NEW YORK -- With the survival of tens of thousands of businesses still in question, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Friday that the state is launching a new economic recovery program that is offering $100 million in loan assistance.
The New York Forward Loan Fund is aimed at helping small businesses, non-profit groups and small landlords in parts of the state that are starting to re-open after being shut down by the pandemic since March. It will have a particular focus on aiding woman- and minority-owned enterprises.
"Small businesses are taking a real beating in this situation," Cuomo said during his daily COVID-19 briefing in Manhattan. "They are 90 percent of New York's businesses and they're facing the toughest challenges."
The governor estimated more that 100,000 small businesses have already shut their doors permanently. "Many small businesses just don't have the staying power to continue to pay all the fixed costs, the lease, et cetera, when they have no income whatsoever," he said. "Minority-owned businesses face a far greater risk and have received less in federal relief."
Cuomo said the program will offer "flexible and affordable loans" to businesses that may have been too small to qualify for the federal Payroll Protection Program or other recent federal assistance. Companies that have received federal assistance are not eligible for this state program.
The fund targets businesses with 20 or fewer full-time employees and less than $3 million in gross annual revenue, non-profits that provide direct services and have budgets below $3 million, and small landlords that have suffered a loss of rental income. The loan fund is specifically timed to support businesses with the up-front costs of re-opening, such as re-establishing inventory, marketing, and retrofitting spaces for social distancing.
Both the Capital Region and Mohawk Valley regions are in Phase I of re-opening, with non-essential manufacturers, construction and agriculture restarting, and retailers open for curbside pickup. The second phase, in which general retail re-opens, could come within two weeks, if virus illnesses don't spike.
The Mid-Hudson Valley and Long Island regions could re-opened next week, Cuomo hinted, as he granted construction companies in those regions permission to start staging materials at worksites.
The new state loan program could address some of the economic devastation caused by the statewide economic shutdown imposed by Cuomo to control spread of coronavirus, which has shuttered businesses and spiked unemployment.
Unemployment in the state has risen from record lows in February to 14.5 percent in April. Economic analysts believe the actual number of job losses is higher than the official 1.8 million estimated by the state Department of Labor.
"It’s official: The viral lockdown has been an economic catastrophe of historic proportions for New York state," E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center for Public Policy wrote in a blog post after the new Department of Labor unemployment estimates were released late Thursday.
The state's economic development agency, Empire State Development, will start taking pre-applications for the New York Forward loans at noon Tuesday. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis as regions re-open, with priority given to businesses that have been re-opened.
The state saw 109 people die from COVID-19 on Thursday, marking the fifth day in a row the death total has fallen between 105 and 112, after peaking at 799 deaths in a day in early April. Fulton County reported three new deaths, bringing its total to 18.
Albany County also reported three new deaths, but they occurred earlier this month at nursing homes, and were just reported to the county, though already reported to the state. The individuals who died were in man in his 60s and two women in their 80s, all with underlying health conditions, said Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy.
Noting a new Centers for Disease Control finding that touching contaminated surfaces isn't a major source of virus transmission, Cuomo re-emphasized that people need to wear face coverings when out in public.
"The mask can make a difference between life and death. How do we know the mask works? First responders have [a] lower rate of infection than the general population," Cuomo said. "How can that possibly be? Because they wear the mask and use the hand sanitizer."