Federal and state programs aim to heal the hurt caused by the pandemic

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

Taste NY: While in-person farmers’ markets may be limited in the midst of the pandemic, a virtual Taste NY Producer Showcase, taking place Oct. 27, is designed to connect New York’s agricultural businesses with potential new buyers of food products.


To cope with the economic strain caused by the pandemic and restrictions meant to stem its spread, several state and federal initiatives were announced this week.

The Albany County Business Development Corporation is being awarded $8,755,500 to help small businesses devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The award is being given by the Economic Development Administration as part of the  Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or CARES Act.

The award will establish an $8 million loan fund for small businesses in Albany County and also provides $755,500 to defray the cost of administering the loan fund.


Lost Wages Assistance

The state’s labor department announced on Thursday that payments for the Lost Wages Assistance program, which provides an additional $300 in weekly benefits to unemployed New Yorkers, will begin next week.

Up to 2.4 million New Yorkers are eligible for the program, including 435,000 who must submit an additional certification to qualify.

During the pandemic emergency, New York State has paid $43.7 billion in unemployment benefits to 3.5 million New Yorkers, representing over 20 typical years’ worth of benefits paid in just six months, according to a release from the labor department.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has released funding for the first three weeks of LWA benefits to New York State, covering the benefit weeks ending Aug. 2, Aug. 9, and Aug. 16. Approximately 2 million New Yorkers are pre-qualified and will receive payments starting next week. The remainder — roughly 435,000 New Yorkers — must submit an additional certification to qualify.

According to FEMA, funding for the program will continue until the federal Disaster Relief Fund balance falls below $25 billion; the $44 billion set aside for the LWA program is depleted; or Congress enacts a replacement unemployment relief program. If none of these scenarios play out before Dec. 27, funding will end then.


Help for child-care providers 

“Child care is essential to getting people back to work,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday, announcing $88.6 million in federal CARES Act funding is available to help child-care providers through NY Forward grants.

The funding is in addition to $30 million made available in the spring and $48.3 million recently awarded to assist child-care providers with reopening or restructuring their physical plans to meet new social distancing requirements.

The application period opens next week and runs through Dec. 31.

The state’s Office of Children and Family Services administers the federal grants and Child Care Resource and Referral agencies across the state will process payments to providers.

The $88.6 million in grant funds will be used as follows:

— $20 million will support child-care scholarships for children of essential workers. Essential workers include first responders such as health care providers, pharmaceutical staff, law enforcement, firefighters, food-delivery workers, grocery store employees and others who are needed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Child-care costs will be covered for families of essential workers whose income is less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level — or $78,600 for a family of four — and will be paid up to market rate for each region statewide. The funding will support 5,400 children in child care for 14 weeks;

—  $20 million is for rental assistance for school-based child care programs that have been displaced by the pandemic. It will support 2,300 school-age child-care programs with $2,000 in monthly rental assistance for four months. Programs may also use the funding for transporting children to the new location;

— $20 million would support grants for closed child-care programs to reopen or restructure under new guidelines for social distancing. This may cover partitions, short-term rental space, supplies or broadband access; and

—  $28.6 million will provide grants for child-care providers to pay for half of the cost (up to $6,000) to open a new classroom. Temporary funds would be phased out in the second and third months as parents enroll more children in child care.


Support for manufacturers

The Center for Economic Growth, located in the capital Region, received $800,000 to help companies statewide with reshoring and rebuilding supply chains. The center will focus on skills gaps, cutting production costs, identifying alternative materials for manufacturing, redesigning products, and addressing barriers to moving production from other countries to New York State.

The money was part of $2.3 million in federal CARES Act funding for four organizations to help small and mid-sized manufacturers adapt to changing market conditions amid the pandemic.

The awardees are New York Manufacturing Extension Partnership centers designated by Empire State Development.

As part of the funding, FuzeHub received $350,000 to develop, deliver, and distribute virtual webinars and workshops to reach manufacturers across the state. Training and information sharing will include such topics as emergency preparedness, supply-chain use during a crisis, cybersecurity, and recovery efforts.


Taste NY

A virtual Taste NY Producer Showcase is designed to connect New York’s agricultural businesses with potential new buyers of food products. The two-hour showcase, taking place on Oct. 27, is now open for registration for vendors and buyers. It is being piloted in the Capital Region and the Adirondacks.

“Agriculture is a leading driver of New York’s economy and the bedrock of so many local communities,” Cuomo said in announcing the initiative. “This showcase gives our farmers, brewers, and local businesses the opportunity to expand their business and spur growth as New York continues to move forward during this unprecedented time.” 

The showcase is being hosted by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Washington County and the Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce & CVB, in partnership with Taste NY, New York State's marketing program for agricultural and food and beverage businesses.

Using an online platform, farms and food and beverage makers from the Adirondacks and Capital Region, as well as from across the State, will present their products to potential buyers in the region. Buyers can include retailers, restaurants, grocers, specialty markets, schools, institutions, and distributors, looking to purchase New York products. 

Producers must register online at www.lakegeorgechamber.com/tasteny by Sept. 25. The event will be capped at 50 vendors. Buyers must register by Oct. 20. Registration is $15 for vendors and $5 for buyers, and will provide a directory of participants, and a marketing webinar in advance of the event date where businesses will be provided tips to fast-pitch and highlight their products.

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