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Politics

Ramos, Constantinides Call on City to Refocus Small Business Outreach

ASTORIA – New York State Senator Jessica Ramos and New York City Council Member Costa Constantinides are calling on the City of New York to create a comprehensive strategy to help small businesses in Queens, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, many of which are immigrant-owned and operated, that are suffering from the COVID-19 crisis. Findings show a disproportionate share of Small Business Services (SBS) relief went to Manhattan companies.

“Our small businesses all over New York City are suffering through the COVID-19 crisis, yet only ones in Manhattan benefited most from SBS relief,” said State Senator Jessica Ramos, District 13. “The City must create a robust plan to reach out to our small businesses, many of which here in Western Queens are owned by immigrant families, to create constructive ways to give them help.”

“Western Queens’ small businesses represent the American dream, with owners and workers who come from every corner of the globe,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides, District 22. “Yet so many barriers keep them from accessing vital City services or support — especially now. Without a full-scale plan to reach out to our small businesses, access their needs, and adapt, this will be a tale of two recoveries.”

The lawmakers’ formally called on the City to undertake this necessary work in a May 11 letter to Mayor de Blasio; Gregg Bishop, the recently appointed Senior Advisor for Small Business Related to COVID-19; and Jonnel Doris, the newly named Commissioner of Small Business Services.

As the City begins the conversation around how to restart its economy as the COVID-19 spread is curbed, new statistics show Manhattan small businesses accounted for the majority of the 2,600 firms who received more than $19 million from two SBS-run relief programs. More than half of the NYC Employee Retention Grant’s payout went to Manhattan businesses, as did 66% of the NYC Business Continuity Loan Fund. Queens, with more than double the population of Manhattan, received 9% of the grant’s payout and 16% of the loan’s funds. Brooklyn small businesses received 18% and 25%, respectively.

“The fact that a vast majority of the City’s financial relief went to Manhattan businesses demonstrates that smaller, neighborhood-based, immigrant or minority owned businesses in the ‘outer-boroughs,’ a term we loathe to use, likely did not know that these programs existed or didn’t understand how to apply,” the lawmakers wrote to City officials. “This is a problem we see time and again. It’s usually the folks who are not foreign born, have better education access, and are wealthier from the start who best understand how to access government resources.”

Ramos and Constantinides called on SBS to prioritize these same small businesses moving forward. They are the lifeblood of our local economy, which faces its greatest challenge in nearly 50 years. Moving forward, they should lead the recovery in every corner of New York City.

Council Member Costa Constantinides represents the New York City Council’s 22nd District, which includes his native Astoria along with parts of Woodside, East Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights. He serves as the chair of the City Council’s Environmental Protection Committee and sits on three additional committees: Sanitation, Resiliency, and Technology.

For more information, visit council.nyc.gov/costa.

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