Small businesses counting the minutes until recovery from pandemic

(WIVB) — High noon Thursday signals the start of a new day for small businesses ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic. An $800 million grant program goes live, but business leaders are also urging caution.

The state program is providing outright grants of up to $50,000 to help small businesses, that have been hurt by the pandemic get back on their feet. But business leaders also point out, a program with this much money on the line is likely going to attract scammers.

The state’s Small Business Recovery Grant program provides $800 million in grants up to $50,000 for small businesses, microbusinesses, even sole proprietorships that have been hammered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Matthew Kennedy of Empire State Development says, “Priority is going to be given to socially and economically disadvantaged business owners including but not limited to minority and women owned enterprises.”

“It can’t be a non-profit or church or religious institution. It can’t be a government-owned entity or an elected official, officer, or business engaged in lobbying, politic, political offices,” adds Kennedy.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the small business grants two weeks ago as part of a $3.5 billion assistance program to help tenants stave off eviction and landlords avoid foreclosure after going more than a year without collecting rent.

“We are always looking out for everybody to make sure that your are not getting scammed, you are not going to the wrong source,” says Melanie McGovern of the Better Business Bureau.

Melanie McGovern and the Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York hosted Empire State Development’s webcast announcing the start of the recovery grant programs’ application period.

Empire State Development is administering the program, but a non-state agency called Lendistry is hosting the website and processing the applications. The BBB is concerned applicants could end up at fraudulent websites when they go online searching for the right website that looks like this.

“People will set up links trying to trick you into thinking you are applying for these loans. So just make sure that you are using the links that we are sending you in the emails. Make sure you are not clicking on the first link that pops up if you Google New York State grant program,” McGovern told News 4.

The grant program’s website is online now, but it doesn’t go live for processing applications until high noon Thursday.

You can find a link to the website, here.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here.

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