As the pandemic closures round the corner to its exact one-year anniversary, local business owners have braced for and survived endlessly changing restrictions and reconfiguring of customer outreach.
At the center of information for small business owners have been chambers of commerce, whose leaders and members have scrambled to host Zoom meetings where traditionally friendly and frequented in-person luncheons or dinners were held for monthly updates.
The Bayport-Blue Point Chamber of Commerce hosted a jam-packed Zoom meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 24 with Willa Smith, a representative of Stony Brook University’s Business Development Center, which provides gratis services to local businesses and most recently for specialized forgivable loans during the pandemic.
“This past year has been one for cultivating innovation as a chamber for our chamber members,” said Carol Seitz-Cusack, president of the Bayport-Blue Point Chamber. “We have been steadfast in relaying vital information about the PPP loans.”
The Paycheck Protection Program, with funds from the federal government released after approval of applications submitted by banking institutions, enacted last year after the pandemic, was met with fierce criticism by local business owners after larger corporations with sprawling accounting divisions ate up the lion’s share of funding.
This year, the second round of PPP has devoted a two-week period (from Feb. 24 through March 9) to prioritize small businesses (businesses with fewer than 20 employees, and also 1099 workers or other sole proprietorships).
To be eligible, small businesses must prove at least a 25 percent revenue drop quarter over quarter (many electing to use the second quarter of 2020 compared to 2019). The amount given by the PPP is calculated by determining monthly payroll and multiplying that number by 2.5 (for the especially hard-hit hospitality and restaurant industry, that factor is raised to 3.5).
As with the first round of PPP, if 60 percent or more of the funds is used towards payroll, then the loan is forgiven.
Separate from the PPP is an Economic Injury Disaster Loan through the Small Business Administration. While not forgivable, this loan is 30-year at a 3.75 per- cent rate (2.75 percent to nonprofits) with no cost to apply and only $100 to close.
Similarly, the Greater Sayville Chamber of Commerce has also held informative meetings and forwarded all up-to- date information on loans to members. The Sayville Chamber even opened a Business Relief Fund to directly help local companies.
Throughout the pandemic, Sayville Chamber has worked with individual members to tailor their course of action to secure funding for their specific industry and business size.
The East Islip Chamber of Commerce has also been serving as an expedient conduit of information for members, but Gary Teich, president of the chamber said, “Businesses need to rely on their bankers and/or accountants to help them navigate this.”
Patchogue Chamber of Commerce executive director David Kennedy said, “[I have] been proud to serve on numerous regional task forces and business associations that have hosted experts and officials with valuable information that I immediately pass along to our members.”
During his membership on these committees, Kennedy has been a fierce advocate in government, affirming that these funds primarily go to small businesses.
Local elected officials have also worked with chambers and companies in both advocating for and relaying information about financial reprieves.
Legis. Rob Calarco (D-7th District) partnered with Connoisseur Media to produce a PSA that outline the PPP loan application process and raised awareness of its availability. Additionally, Calarco’s office has had a designated staff member responsible for fielding all calls on PPP loans who have walked interested parties through the entire application process. Calarco’s team has also been inventive and informative through their social media channels at getting information to local business owners.
“Our office has focused on helping businesses and organizations get back on their feet in the wake of the pandemic in a variety of ways,” said Calarco.
In the 8th District, Legis. Anthony Piccirillo has worked with local chambers and throughout the past year has served as a liaison for businesses with questions about restrictions, rules, and regulations surrounding PPP.
“I know how much the small-business community is hurting and I will continue to stand alongside them advocating on their behalf,” added Piccirillo.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story stated that the PPP deadline was March 7. We regret this error.