COVID pandemic relief funds still available for struggling small businesses

LINDENHURST, N.Y. — Tens of millions of dollars in state grant money earmarked for small business owners will expire in mere days.

As CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reports, the COVID pandemic relief dollars are still available with looming deadlines to fill out the applications.

Talking to the pizzamaker, trading a library book, sweeping the sidewalk — all along Main Street in Lindenhurst are proud merchants struggling to keep their small businesses alive.

“Rising food costs have been extremely painful here. We opened up two weeks into COVID,” said Dean Leunes, owner of the Pita Bowl.

Leunes said they had to lay off staff, then slowly rehire them as downtown strives to thrive.

“It’s an up-and-down business, has never been the same, but we keep surviving,” said Marvin Mejias, of Bad Monkey Garage.

Now Bad Monkey Garage and others are getting a new boost of relief.

“New York state has two funds, grant programs that folks can apply for. Deadlines are approaching,” said Eric Alexander, with Main Street Alliance.

The Seed Funding Grant Program and COVID-19 Pandemic Small Business Recovery Grant Program still have money in their coffers to give away by 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 30 — $200 million and $800 million, respectively.

Alexander says at a base level, businesses can be eligible for $5,000 and, depending on the program, $25,000 to $50,000.

“Very, very difficult because I have to pay the rent every month,” said Esther Acosta, owner of Esther’s Salon.

The grant money can go towards rent, mortgage, payroll, utility bills and personal protective equipment.

“Especially in this industry,  where it’s very close contact,” said Matthew Gaudio, co-owner of Holy Black Barbershop.

Gaudio says COVID fears keep some customers away.

So far, 90% of the grants have gone to small businesses with 10 or fewer employees. The majority are minority and women entrepreneurs.

“It’s huge to help any small business in the downtown is very important because it is really our lifeblood here,” said Jason Kontakis, with Lindenhurst Business Improvement District.

“Everyone should be jumping on that opportunity,” Leunes said.

Small business owners are on the clock.

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Jennifer McLogan