(The Center Square) – Just as New York officials are working to prevent a second wave of COVID-19 from hitting the state, small business owners are hopeful leaders in Albany will take similar efforts to protect them from getting hit a second time as well.
Unlike the federal government, New York can’t release billions or more in new funding sources to help keep businesses afloat. However, Greg Biryla, the New York state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, said state leaders can make important policy decisions to protect the businesses that employ more than half of the state.
And the biggest policy decision state officials face concerns unemployment insurance, Biryla told The Center Square.
The latest figures show a 12.5 percent unemployment rate New York, tied for third worst in the nation with Hawaii. Only Rhode Island and Nevada have higher rates. The high rate stems from the COVID-19 shutdown Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered and not through any action the businesses themselves took voluntarily.
Still, it could have a significant financial impact on small businesses, Biryla said.
“So next year, when unemployment insurance premiums are calculated, we want to make sure that there isn't a drastic [increase] that basically just amounts to a new payroll tax and hits these businesses at the absolute worst time, just as hopefully they’re getting their feet underneath them,” he told The Center Square.
Biryla hopes the state would be able to prevent that increase on its own. However, Cuomo has said New York faces a $30 billion deficit over the next two years and will need federal funding to fill that gap. So, if the federal government provides the state with any money, Biryla said he hopes the state would use at least some of it to cover the unemployment program.
A recent survey by the NFIB of its members indicates that nearly half of them believe they’ll need additional financial support over the next year. In addition, if Congress were to extend the Paycheck Protection Program, 44 percent said they would pursue either their first or second PPP loan and another 30 percent would consider applying.
Biryla said 80 percent of members used PPP loans, but 84 percent of the recipients have used all the funding from their loans.
Holly Wade, the executive director of the NFIB’s Research Center, said that small businesses are still struggling and making adjustments more than six months after the pandemic started.
“Small businesses are in danger of closing for good if they don’t get additional financial assistance,” she said. “Small businesses urge Congress and the Administration to agree on legislation that would aid the small business economy and allow small businesses to stay open and move forward.”
The national survey also indicates that 34 percent of those polled said their present sales volumes fall between 76 percent and 100 percent of their pre-COVID levels, and 17 percent report even higher sales than before the pandemic hit.
However, more than 20 percent of small business owners say their sales totals are no better than half of what they were six months ago.
While a lot of the focus in New York has been on the impact COVID-19 has had on New York City and other parts downstate, the pandemic has been hard for businesses across the state, Biryla said. That’s especially true for businesses near the Canadian border in western and northern portions of the state.
The border closure for non-essential traffic has affected the flow of goods and services and it’s also had an impact on New York’s hospitality industry.
“So much of the economy is just built around how people move within the state, between states, between Canada and the state,” Biryla told The Center Square.