Bill aims to promote ‘shop local’ to help small businesses recover from pandemic

HOLBROOK, NY ( / — Karvers Grille in Holbrook hosted a contingent of state elected officials and heads of local chambers of commerce. The group hopes to advance a bill to provide marketing dollars to encourage local shopping, dining, and services as the business community pulls itself from the depths of economic hardship caused by the pandemic.

Popular for meals, special events, and happy hour before the pandemic limited business to carry-out only, Karvers served as a gathering spot this past week for state elected leaders and supporters to introduce and advocate for passage of a new bill.

The group unveiled legislation to create the “NY First-Shop Local” program.

The legislators said the bill would repurpose existing funds allocated to the Department of Economic Development for print, broadcast, and digital marketing campaigns. Supporters said the bill would use these funds to help local businesses gain ground on their international competitors online by making funding available to power search engine optimization, digital marketing campaigns, and social media promotion. Local chambers of commerce, business improvement districts, and other not-for-profits that promote local businesses would be eligible for grant funding to create innovative, cost-effective promotional vehicles urging New Yorkers to shop locally.

“As we begin to re-open small businesses around the state, now is the time for the state to invest in Main Street,” said bill co-sponsor New York State Assemblyman Doug Smith (5th District) of Holbrook. “Ninety-five percent of businesses in New York are small businesses that employ half of our workforce. I am happy to support funding for our chambers of commerce and business organizations to promote shopping small."

Presently, the bill is in the New York State Assembly under the sponsorship of Assemblyman Ed Ra (19th District) of Franklin Square and co-sponsored by Smith, Andrew Garbarino (7th District) of Sayville, and Assemblyman John Mikulin (17th District) of Bethpage.

The bill, A10473, needs a companion bill in the New York State Senate. Ultimately, if both the Assembly and Senate pass the legislation, the bill would be sent to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for his signature and then become law.

Garbarino said, “As we re-open our economy, it is more important than ever that we shop local and keep the dollars in the local community. This legislation will help highlight our local businesses so they can recover and, once again, thrive.”

Ra, as the bill’s sponsor, said locally owned businesses have been at a competitive disadvantage during the pandemic.

“While many of their big-box competitors were free to operate during the last 10 weeks, most of our mom-and-pop, family-owned businesses were forced to shut down. Let’s help them catch up. So many of our restaurants, specialty stores and downtown retailers are on the brink, through no fault of their own. So many families are suffering economic hardship. Any serious recovery plan for our state needs to prioritize real solutions for our small-business owners to hit the ground running. This bill will help them retain their customers and connect with new ones,” Ra said.

“I am glad to stand by my colleagues and support small businesses. Small businesses need help during this time to re-open and get back on their feet. That is why I support this grant program and cosponsored the legislation,” said Mikulin of Bethpage.

Eric Alexander of the Long Island Main Street Alliance said, “Local small businesses that have been shut down or are operating with skeleton crews are in need of every sort of support possible as they seek to recover from the extended coronavirus shutdown. Large chain stores benefited from government regulations, and a robust effort from New York state encouraging a “shop local” initiative will help balance the scales for our Main Streets and small businesses.”

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