Restaurant and real estate trade groups are banding together for the first time in response to the COVID-19 crisis to call on Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and other elected officials to implement a recovery plan for small businesses in New York
The New York City Hospitality Alliance, which represents thousands of restaurants across the city; the NYS Latino Restaurant, Bar & Lounge Association; and the Real Estate Board of New York, which lobbies on behalf of landlords across the city, are among several groups that have proposed what they call the Blueprint to Save Small Business.
These groups have identified four key areas that they say will aid the recovery efforts, namely insurance for businesses, the payment protection program, sales tax, and rent and mortgages. Here are more specifics on each of these categories:
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP): Under the current federal stimulus plan, restaurants that don’t fully rehire their staff by the end of June will have to start making repayments on the PPP loan sooner, while those that do hire back staff won’t have the same obligation. Business leaders are asking that the program be amended to allow for a greater chunk of the loan money to be used toward rent and other payments — at present about 75 percent of the loan has to go toward payroll. They’re also asking for the loan forgiveness to be extended past June, allowing restaurants and other small businesses a minimum of six months to fully rehire staff.
Sales tax: Restaurants had previously asked the state to cancel state tax collection for the first quarter of the year, but the state has only agreed to waive late fees so far, and that only applies to businesses that file every quarter or annually — not ones that file monthly. The group is now calling on the state to convert the already collected tax, and the money that is due, into grants to revive businesses that are hurting right now.
Rent and mortgages: Restaurants and other business owners have been calling for rent forgiveness for some time now, and some state legislators are working on a proposal that would cancel rent for 90 days once enacted. That legislation also asks for mortgage payment forgiveness for landlords, but property owners said that wasn’t enough. Now this group of business leaders is calling for the creation of a fund that will help landlords make other payments like building repairs and taxes — in addition to commercial tenants getting financial assistance for rent. Above all, the group is calling for tenants and landlords to come to an agreement that would benefit both parties.
Insurance: Some small businesses that have applied for business interruption claims have seen them rejected, Melissa Fleischut, the president of the New York State Association of Restaurants tells Eater. Currently, many only cover physical damage to shops, and have clauses about viruses that exclude coverage. Business leaders are calling for a recovery fund similar to ones created after 9/11 that would allow for these insurance claims to be paid.