As coronavirus impacts small businesses, city offers financial relief

Offers include small grants and interest-free loans of up to $75K

Mayor De Blasio distributes information on the coronavirus (Credit: Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)
Mayor De Blasio distributes information on the coronavirus (Credit: Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)

As foot traffic declines at New York City retailers and restaurants amid coronavirus fears, the de Blasio administration is stepping in to help small businesses stave off layoffs and closures.

The city will offer businesses with fewer than 100 employees interest-free loans of up to $75,000, if they can demonstrate sales decreases of 25 percent or more, the mayor announced Monday.

Very small businesses with fewer than five employees will be eligible for cash grants to cover 40 percent of payroll costs for two months. The city estimates that 2,600 businesses will be able to take advantage of these grants, with an average amount of $6,000.

“We know from the experience of people we know in Italy that restaurants get hit pretty hard,” Emanuele Nigro, the owner of Italian restaurant Osteria 57, told the Wall Street Journal. “So we know it’s just a matter of time.”

The Italian government announced Monday that it would extend quarantine and travel restrictions from the hard-hit north to the entire country, as more than 400 people have died from coronavirus in Italy.

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Nigro, who is from Milan, estimated that his restaurant saw a 15-percent decline in business last week and faces a 30-percent decline in reservations for the coming week. The restaurant has unveiled a new, less expensive delivery menu as more customers opt to stay home or move out of the city altogether.

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New York state has identified over 140 cases of the virus, with a majority in Westchester county.

Businesses in Asian neighborhoods like Flushing have also seen sharp declines in revenue due to coronavirus fears, and some have already closed indefinitely.

“The businesses in downtown Flushing rely on heavy volume and low profit margins,” Dian Song Yu, executive director of the Flushing Business Improvement District in Queens said. “As soon as we lose the heavy volume, most of the business is going to go down. It’s tough to survive this.” [WSJ] — Kevin Sun