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Restart Resources

Although New York State has officially “restarted,” we are committed to providing you with information, funding opportunities, guidelines and safety protocols that will help you run your business during the pandemic.

If you have a questions related to your business, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 518.439.0512 or via email at info@bethlehemchamber.com.

Regional Food Bank of Northeastern NY Receives Funding to Partner with Restaurants to Provide Meals

There have been significant challenges for families, restaurants, farmers, and food donation and distribution over the past two years.

The Department of Ag and Markets is building on the Nourish New York Initiative by funding more than $25 million to the Restaurant Resiliency Program.

This grant program provides funding to food banks around the state, including $4.3 million to the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern NY in the Capital Region to provide grants to purchase prepared meals from qualifying restaurants for meals and other food-related items for residents in distressed or underrepresented communities.

Restaurants interested in participating in the Restaurant Resiliency Program must fill out the application. Emergency food providers will work directly with restaurants that are deemed eligible for the program by the Department to create an agreement plan to suit their locations and participant's needs. Click here for more information and the application.

Masking Requirements for Businesses

New York State Department of Health is currently following the National Center for Disease Control's guidelines for masking as it pertains to business operations.

The CDC guidelines recommends people regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask in public indoor settings or in areas of substantial or high transmission.

Additionally the CDC recommends that anyone who is immunocompromised wear a mask regardless of level of transmission areas.

Unvaccinated individuals continue to be responsible for wearing masks, in accordance with the new CDC guidance. Consistent with the State's implementation of the recent CDC guidance, masks are still required for unvaccinated individuals, even in settings where the New York Forward guidance has been lifted.

For more information regarding COVID guidelines, vaccination and testing, visit https://forward.ny.gov/

 

SBA Enhances COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program to Aid Small Businesses Facing Challenges from Delta Variant

Increased Loan Cap to $2 Million, Expanded Use of Funds to Pay and Prepay Business Debt, Streamlined Review Processes, and Deferred Payments; First Approval and Disbursement of Loans of $500,000 or Less Also Introduced.

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman announced major enhancements to the COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, a federal disaster relief loan designed to better serve and support our small business communities still reeling from the pandemic, especially hard-hit sectors such as restaurants, gyms, and hotels. The SBA is ready to receive new applications immediately from small businesses looking to take advantage of these new policy changes.

“The SBA’s COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan program offers a lifeline to millions of small businesses who are still being impacted by the pandemic,” SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman said. “We’ve retooled this critical program – increasing the borrowing limit to $2 million, offering 24 months of deferment, and expanding flexibility to allow borrowers to pay down higher-interest business debt. We have also ramped up our outreach efforts to ensure we’re connecting with our smallest businesses as well as those from low-income communities who may also be eligible for the companion COVID EIDL Targeted Advance and Supplemental Advance grants totaling up to $15,000.  Our mission-driven SBA team has been working around the clock to make the loan review process as user-friendly as possible to ensure every entrepreneur who needs help can get the capital they need to reopen, recover and rebuild.”

Key changes being announced by the SBA include:

  • Increasing the COVID EIDL Cap. The SBA will lift the COVID EIDL cap from $500,000 to $2 million. Loan funds can be used for any normal operating expenses and working capital, including payroll, purchasing equipment, and paying debt.
  • Implementation of a Deferred Payment Period.  The SBA will ensure small business owners will not have to begin COVID EIDL repayment until two years after loan origination so that they can get through the pandemic without having to worry about making ends meet.
  • Establishment of a 30-Day Exclusivity Window. To ensure Main Street businesses have additional time to access these funds, the SBA will implement a 30-day exclusivity window of approving and disbursing funds for loans of $500,000 or less. Approval and disbursement of loans over $500,000 will begin after the 30-day period.
  • Expansion of Eligible Use of Funds. COVID EIDL funds will now be eligible to prepay commercial debt and make payments on federal business debt.
  • Simplification of affiliation requirements. To ease the COVID EIDL application process for small businesses, the SBA has established more simplified affiliation requirements to model those of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

The enhancements to the COVID EIDL program will allow more businesses greater and more flexible support from the over $150 billion in available COVID EIDL funds. Additionally, these changes will help entrepreneurs access capital at a time when, according to a recent Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses survey, 44 percent of small business owners report having less than three months of cash reserves, and only 31 percent reporting confidence in gaining access to funding.

How to apply

Eligible small businesses, nonprofits, and agricultural businesses in all U.S. states and territories can apply. Visit www.sba.gov/eidl to learn more about eligibility and application requirements. The last day that applications may be received is December 31, 2021. All applicants should file their applications as soon as possible.

For additional information on COVID EIDL and other recovery programs please visit www.sba.gov/relief. Small business owners may call SBA’s Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955 (1-800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard of hearing) or email DisasterCustomerService@sba.gov for additional assistance. The center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST. Multilingual representatives are available. Small business owners may also contact SBA’s Resource Partners by visiting www.sba.gov/local-assistance.

Application Process and Fraud Control Enhancements

In addition to the policy enhancements, the SBA has invested in optimized processes and increased capacity to improve the customer service experience for applicants. Directed by Administrator Guzman to swiftly and drastically enhance COVID EIDL, the revamped management team implemented new processes and performance management such as prioritizing personnel for COVID EIDL and increasing the average number of loan application decisions made. The SBA accelerated daily processing of loan increases from close to 2,000 applications to more than 37,000 applications daily. Loan officer productivity also went from 1.86 applications per day to 15 applications per day. As a result of these increased loan review rates, the 600,000+ loan increase backlog has been cleared and new applications can be processed immediately. At the same time, and to ensure taxpayer dollars are used to support businesses that need COVID EIDL funding most, the SBA has increased fraud controls and is working in collaboration with the SBA Inspector General to closely monitor the program.

All business owners that have received previous loans through the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), or Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) can still benefit from COVID EIDL. To learn more about the application process, visit www.sba.gov/eidl.

Gov. Hochul Announces the Designation of COVID-19 as Airborne Infectious Disease Under the Hero Act

The New York Health and Essential Rights Act (NY HERO Act) was signed into law on May 5, 2021. And on Sept. 6, Governor Kathy Hochul designated COVID-19 as an airborne infection disease under the HERO Act, which now requires all employers to implement workplace safety plans.

Under this new law, the New York State Department of Labor (NYS DOL), in consultation with the NYS Department of Health, has developed a new Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Standard, a Model Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plan, and various industry-specific model plans for the prevention of airborne infectious disease. Employers can choose to adopt the applicable policy template/plan provided by NYS DOL or establish an alternative plan that meets or exceeds the standard’s minimum requirements.

More information about the HERO Act, plans and updates can be found here.

Gov. Hochul Announces More Small Businesses Now Eligible for COVID Relief Funding

Governor Hochul announced on Thursday, Aug. 26, an increase in the threshold for small businesses to qualify for the Small Business Recovery Grant through Empire State Development.

Previously any business with gross receipts in excess of $500,000 were ineligible to receive this Small Business Recovery grant.  As of Thursday, the threshold for eligibility has been increased to 2.5 million dollars.  This increase will now open-up a wide range of now eligible businesses to qualify for up to $50,000 in grant funds to reimburse business expenses incurred during 2020/21 to weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

All other eligibility requirements remain the same which include demonstrating a loss of 25% or more in gross receipts in 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

The expansion announced this week should ensure additional small businesses can more quickly access funding through the program.

Empire State Development and Lendistry, the minority-led Community Development Financial Institution that was selected to administer the program, will continue to accept and review applications. All current applicants - those who have not finished their applications, have not uploaded documents or have incomplete documentation - are encouraged to finalize their applications as soon as possible, according to media sources.

Previously ineligible small businesses can apply immediately and those applications will start being processed on Wednesday, Sept. 8.

Reimbursable COVID-19 related expenses must have been incurred between March 1, 2020 and April 1, 2021 and can include payroll costs; commercial rent or mortgage payments for New York State-based property; payment of local property or school taxes; insurance and utility costs; costs of personal protection equipment necessary to protect worker and consumer health and safety; costs for heating, ventilation and air conditioning, or other machinery and equipment; and supplies and materials necessary for compliance with COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

The online application with extensive information on the program is available at www.nysmallbusinessrecovery.com.

SBA Releases Information about PPP Loan Forgiveness

The Small Business Administration has released the guidelines and forms for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness on their website.

The site supplies terms for First and Second Draw PPP loan forgiveness; how and when to apply for loan forgiveness; forms and instructions; and information about loan forgiveness in other languages.

It details what documentation is needed when lenders are participating or not, and the steps businesses need to go through depending on the lender’s participation.

The site also includes a training video about the borrower portal.

Access the site at: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/covid-19-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program/ppp-loan-forgiveness

Hero Act Deadline Approaching

On May 5, 2021, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the New York Health and Essential Rights Act (NY HERO Act) into law. The law mandates extensive new workplace health and safety protections in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose of the NY HERO Act is to protect employees against exposure and disease during a future airborne infectious disease outbreak.

Under this new law, the New York State Department of Labor (NYS DOL), in consultation with the NYS Department of Health, has developed a new Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Standard, a Model Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plan, and various industry-specific model plans for the prevention of airborne infectious disease. Employers can choose to adopt the applicable policy template/plan provided by NYS DOL or establish an alternative plan that meets or exceeds the standard’s minimum requirements.

The airborne infectious disease exposure prevention plans must go into effect when an airborne infectious disease is designated by the New York State Commissioner of Health as a highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health.

Plans must be in place by August 5, 2021. For more information or to view the DOL documents click here.

Governor Releases New Mask Rules

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that New York State will adopt the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new guidance on mask use for fully vaccinated people. Vaccinated individuals may remove their masks and stop social distancing — except in the most crowded public settings.

Consistent with the CDC guidance, some people will still need to wear masks. This includes students in schools, those traveling on public transit, anyone staying in homeless shelter and others in certain crowded areas.

Private venues can continue to have mask mandates.

For more information click here.

COVID-19 Exposure Alerts

Get COVID-19 exposure Alerts with the official COVID Alert NY app.

Add Your Phone. Stop the Spread.  Download the app to get COVID-19 exposure alerts and help protect your community while maintaining your privacy.  Visit the NYS website for details and to download the app.

Guidance on Use of COVID-19 Sick Leave

On March 18, 2020, New York State enacted legislation authorizing sick leave for employees subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19. The law provides paid and unpaid sick leave with access to expanded paid family leave and temporary disability depending on the size of the employer. All employees, regardless of the size of their employer, are entitled to job protection upon return from leave.

Click here to view the document that supplements prior guidance on the application of COVID-19 sick leave. All prior guidance remains in effect.  Added 2/3/21.

Funding Opportunities

Albany County COVID-19 Small Business Grant Program
The Albany County Legislature and the Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region announced a new $500,000 grant program for small businesses. The grant fund totals $500,000 and is the largest fund created in the Capital Region to help those heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Small businesses can begin applying for the grants on January 4, 2021. The deadline to apply is 5pm on January 19, 2021.

Albany County COVID-19 Small Business Grant Application

 

Bethlehem Chamber Small Business Hardship Fund
This fund awards grants up to $200 per business on a first come, first served basis. To be eligible, the business must be located within the Town of Bethlehem, NY, or must be a Chamber member. The application includes submission instructions.

Hardship Fund Application

 

Capital Region Advancement Fund
Provides low-interest working capital loans to help stabilize local business operations and retain employment. Loans can range from $25,000 – $500,000. The interest rate is 1.5%.  The fact sheet below provides program highlights, eligibility requirements and application instructions.

Capital Region Advancement Fund Fact Sheet

 

New York Forward Loan Fund (NYFLF)
New economic recovery loan program aimed at supporting New York State small businesses, nonprofits and small landlords as they reopen after the COVID-19 outbreak and NYS on PAUSE. A full description of the fund can be found here.

Pre-Application

NYFLF Frequently Answered Questions

Additional Information & Resources

June 24 New York Forward Loan Fund Webinar:
PowerPoint Presentation
Recording (audio & visual)

 

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
An SBA loan that helps businesses keep their workforce employed during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. Loans are to be used to cover payroll costs, and most mortgage interest, rent, and utility costs over the 8-week period after the loan is made. Visit this page for a full description of the program.

The Borrower must complete the application as directed in these instructions, and submit it to your Lender (or the Lender that is servicing your loan) to apply for forgiveness of your Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan.

Borrower Application

Loan Forgiveness Application Instructions for Borrowers

UPDATE 10/9/20 - SBA and Treasury Announce Simpler PPP Forgiveness for Loans of $50,000 or Less: The U.S. Small Business Administration, in consultation with the Treasury Department, released a simpler loan forgiveness application for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans of $50,000 or less. This action streamlines the PPP forgiveness process to provide financial and administrative relief to America’s smallest businesses while also ensuring sound stewardship of taxpayer dollars. Click link for complete details.

Use this directory to find a nearby lender eligible to issue a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program.

 

Empire State Digital Initiative

New York State has partnered for a first-in-the-nation program with leading global e-commerce partners - Ritual ONE & PayPal, Shopify, Square, and Clearbanc - to accelerate New York State-based small businesses’ ability to grow their online presence.

The participating digital partners are offering specialized solutions such as education, free resources, marketing support and discounted pricing that are unique to the needs of New York State small business owners, restaurants and food service establishments.

For complete details, click to view the Empire State Digital Initiative Flyer.

Executive Order on Payroll Tax Deferral

Provided by The Business Council of New York State, Inc.:

There have been many questions about President Trump’s Executive Order on Payroll Tax Deferral, issued in August 2020.  That order used existing statutory authority to defer, but not cancel, the withholding of employee’s social security payroll tax for the period September 1 to December 31, 2020,. It would provide temporary relief to employees that are “generally” paid up to $4,000 biweekly, or $104,000 per year.  While the order instructed the Treasury Department to consider options for cancelling these deferred withholdings, no statue, rule or order has been issued doing so...

The IRS has issued implementation guidance, available here.

 

Key points from the Executive Order and IRS guidance for consideration by employers:

  • This deferral is optional, at the election of the employer.   An employer can chose to NOT participate in this program, and no further action would be required by the employer.  As example, there is no obligation for employers to post a notice or otherwise notify employees of the program and/or the employers decision to not participation.

 

  • This employee payroll tax liability is only deferred.  The deferred amount must be withheld from employees and remitted to the IRS during the period January 1, 2021 to April 30, 2021, during which period employees may see their withholding increased to double their “normal” level.  Moreover, interest and penalties will begin to accrue on May 1, 2021, with respect to any unpaid amount of deferred tax.

 

  • The deferral only applies to biweekly pay periods during which an employee earns $4,000 or less, so payroll processors must be aware of pay period pay levels to correctly apply the deferral.  No deferral is available for pay periods during which an employee earns over that threshold – a compliance provision that will add complexity for some employers.

 

Even with this IRS guidance, there are many unanswered questions regarding this program:

- If an employer opts into the program, do they have to apply the deferral to all eligible employees during all eligible pay periods?

- Are their restrictions as to when an employer can opt into, and once in, opt out of the deferral program?

- Can an employer that opts into the program allow individual employers to opt in or out of the deferral program?

- How are payroll taxes recouped if an employee no longer works for the same employer during the January to April 2021 period for recovery of deferred withholdings?   Would employers be liable for any unrecovered tax liability?

- What will Congress do?  They could include a payroll tax “holiday” in an upcoming COVID relief bill, either forgiving taxes deferred under the Executive Order, or substituting a different program.  To date, Congressional agreement on a payroll tax holiday has seemed unlikely.

 

In our view, due to the temporary nature of this employee “benefit,” the requirement for full recovery of deferred withholdings from employees in 2021, and the significant uncertainties regarding the program, it will make sense for most employers to not opt-in.

We will continue to share information from the IRS and other sources.

If you have any other questions not addressed above, please feel free to contact ken.pokalsky@bcnys.org or frank.kerbein@bcnys.org.

PPE Available for Bethlehem Businesses

Albany County has access to supplies of PPE (cotton, reusable facemasks, hand sanitizer and gloves) that is available upon request to local businesses.  To secure supplies, contact the following via email:

  1. Albany County Legislator Joanne Cunningham
  2. Albany County Legislature Director of Communications Nicole Antonucci
  3. Acsoemo@albanycountyny.gov

Thank you to our County Leaders County Executive Dan McCoy, Legislature
Chair Andrew Joyce and County Sheriff Craig Apple for their leadership
in securing these supplies for the public.

Archived Information from Initial NYS Reopening

Phased Plan to Reopen New York State

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo outlined guidelines for the phased plan to reopen New York. There are four phases, and businesses in each region will re-open in phases. There are 10 regions in the state - Capital Region, Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mid-Hudson Valley, Mohawk Valley, New York City, North Country, Long Island, Southern Tier and Western New York – and every region must follow these guidelines as part of the re-opening plan. Our region is the Capital Region.

Phase One includes Construction, Manufacturing, Retail (curbside or in-store pickup or drop off), Wholesale Trade and Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting.

Phase Two includes Professional Services, Retail, Administrative Support and Real Estate / Rental & Leasing.

Phase Three includes Personal Services and Restaurants / Food Services.

Phase Four includes Arts / Entertainment / Recreation and Education.

For details within each industry for Phase One, as well as FAQ's:     Industries Reopening by Phase

There are seven metrics each regions needs to meet in order to move forward with reopening. These metrics were determined based on guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Department of State, and other public health experts.

The guidelines can be found here:     Metrics to Guide Reopening New York

Guidelines & Safety Protocols to Reopen Your Business

Prior to reopening, all businesses are required to develop a plan for how they will operate to ensure the health and safety of employees and customers. Please review the material in your business’s industry, as well as the general category. You will be able to use this material as a template to help you develop your specific plan for your business.

Please note that your plan does not need to be submitted to a state agency for approval but must be retained on the premises of the business and must made available to the New York State Department of Health (DOH) or local health or safety authorities in the event of an inspection. It is suggested that your guidelines are printed and posted at your business location.

New York State is requiring that a Business Affirmation Form is completed and submitted to self-certify that your business meets the safety reopening guidelines. See below for the link. It is important to note that businesses operating now as essential businesses also need to submit the Business Affirmation Form and print and post their safety guidelines.

 

The template can be found here:     Business Re-Opening Safety Plan Template

The affirmation form can be found here:     Business Affirmation Form

Phase One

Phase Two

BARBERSHOPS/HAIR SALONS:

COMMERCIAL BUILDING MGMT:

OFFICES:

REAL ESTATE:

RETAIL IN-STORE SHOPPING:

RETAIL RENTAL/REPAIR/CLEANING:

VEHICLE SALES/LEASES/RENTALS:

Phase Three

Phase Four

GYMS & FITNESS CENTERS:

HIGHER EDUCATION:

LOW-RISK INDOOR ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT:

LOW-RISK OUTDOOR ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT:

MEDIA PRODUCTION:

Additional guidance for Gyms & Fitness Centers:     Gyms & Fitness Centers

Additional Guidelines & Recommendations

The section below includes links to additional documents provided by the CDC, OSHA and the US Chamber of Commerce.

 

CDC RESOURCES
Prepare Your Small Business and Employees for the Effects of COVID-19

Coronavirus Resource Center for Businesses and Workplaces

Reopening Decision Tree Guide for Employers

Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers (Updated May 2020)

Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Workplaces and Businesses

CDC FAQs: Reducing the Spread of COVID-19 in Workplaces

CDC FAQs: Healthy Business Operations

 

New York State Department of Health
COVID Antibody Test FAQ

DEC List of Products to Disinfect COVID-19

 

OSHA RESOURCES
Guidance for Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19

Worker Exposure Risk to COVID-19

Guidance for Specific Industries

 

US CHAMBER RESOURCES

Guide to Small Business COVID-19 Emergency Loans  posted 12/22/20
As part of an end-of-year pandemic relief package, Congress has passed several changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and created a “Second Draw” PPP for small businesses who have exhausted their initial loan. Other changes impact eligibility for initial PPP loans, the loan forgiveness process, and the tax treatment of PPP loans.  Congress has also made changes to other programs – including Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL Program), the Employee Retention Tax Credit, a Venue Grant program, and SBA loan programs –that will benefit small businesses. Click the link to see everything small business owners need to know now (posted 12/22/20).

Workplace Tips for Employees

Standardized Employee Screening Questionnaire
Questionnaire for sample screening questions to ask employees upon return to work and on a regular basis moving forward. This template is based on questions required or recommended by various states as well as input from U.S. Chamber member companies of all sizes and sectors.

Customizable Workplace Flyer
Customize, print, and post this workplace flyer to communicate to your employees and customers the steps your company is taking to keep them safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

OPEN FOR BUSINESS WEBINAR
If you missed our legal webinar presented by the Law office of Catherine M. Hedgeman, click here for the Zoom recording (password: BethCOC#518).

The webinar covered topics pertaining to reopening your business during the Coronavirus Emergency including:
- Managing Finances in time of COVID -19
- Paycheck Protection Program Under the Historic Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act Signed into Law on March 27: Financial policy and tracking for Paycheck Protection Act Loan forgiveness and Economic Injury Disaster Loans per SBA guidance
- Drafting the required Reopening Plan: Factors to Consider
- Commercial Landlord/Tenant Rights and Responsibilities under COVID 19
- Business Contract Management