Many small businesses are always on the fiscal edge and this COVID-19 pandemic hasn't helped. The Erie County Industrial Development Agency is trying to help, giving small business grants toward the costs of worker personal protective equipment.
The agency is already getting phone calls for a program that only started Monday. Up to $10,000 for a business to help meet the costs of COVID, including PPE, social distancing compliance and future costs. The ECIDA has carved $500,000 out of its budget, with state authorization, for the cost reimbursement program.
"A lot of our economy has had impacts to varying degrees," said ECIDA President and CEO John Cappellino. "Certainly, some sectors have been more severely impacted than others, but pretty much everyone has had impacts from both COVID-19, the pandemic and the shutdown and recovery operation that's underway."
The county has been trying to prop up small, women and minority-owned businesses in highly distressed areas with fewer than 50 workers. This is part of an array of assistance for local businesses hit by the the pandemic.
Cappellino said it is a little different for his agency.
"IDAs typically are not allowed to give loans or grants directly. This was the result of action the State Legislature took, that would allow IDA's to provide grants for the specific purpose of helping existing companies that have been impacted by COVID and particularly targeted toward expenses they have incurred for PPE," he said. "So a real targeted approach."
A lot of businesses had to shut down for the long lockdown and there are costs for restarting, which this program will cover. Cappellino said even manufacturing companies that managed to keep operating still need PPE for workers.
"If you have to go out and, you've seen it when you go into your local retail establishment, they all bought plexiglass. They had to put shields up and have different protections for the customers and their workers. Those are difficult costs to absorb," Cappellino said. "So we're hoping this program can provide a little bit of help to those companies that needed to make those investments."