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CEO FOCUS: Help is Here for Firms Seeking State Pandemic Small Business Recovery Grants

By Robert M. Simpson


We have heard directly from so many businesses, about the multitude of challenges they face, having been hit hard by the pandemic, including gaps in critical grant funding. [On June 3], along with New York State Assemblyman Al Stirpe, and the South Side Innovation Center, we announced opportunities are available for assisting companies in accessing the state’s COVID-19 Pandemic Small Business Recovery Grant Program.

The $800 million program targets funding to small and micro businesses and small for-profit independent arts and cultural organizations to help them recover from the economic impact of the pandemic. Flexible grants up to $50,000 can be used for operating expenses, including payroll, rent or mortgage payments, taxes, utilities, personal protective equipment, or other business expenses incurred during the pandemic. The program prioritizes socially and economically disadvantaged business owners, including minority- and women-owned business enterprises, service-disabled veteran-owned businesses and veteran-owned businesses, and businesses located in economically distressed communities. By focusing on businesses with annual gross receipts of between $25,000 and $500,000, it ensures that small New York state businesses are not competing with substantially larger companies for relief. And it provides relief for smaller businesses that may not have been able to access adequate funding from other government stimulus programs.

The program is administered by Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and began accepting applications on June 10. CenterState CEO, the South Side Innovation Center, Onondaga Small Business Development Center, and the Cortland Chamber of Commerce have been designated by ESDC to provide technical assistance. 

This means CenterState CEO will work with prospective applicants to understand requirements of the program, ensure that this opportunity is right for them and that their questions are answered quickly and efficiently so that they are well positioned to submit competitive applications. This is work our staff at CenterState CEO does daily, using our network of in-house expertise, agency staff, membership, and service providers to respond to business needs of all kinds. We will also work alongside our partners at the Upstate Minority Economic Alliance to reach out to minority-owned small businesses, whom we know have suffered disproportionately from the economic fallout of the pandemic. Look for webinars in the coming weeks to spread the word about the program’s requirements and benefits.

Finally, I’d like to thank and recognize Assemblyman Al Stirpe for his advocacy efforts in support of this funding and of our region’s small businesses. As chair of the Assembly Small Business Committee and co-chair of an Assembly Working Group focused on New York’s economic recovery from COVID-19, he led the effort to create the COVID Small Business Recovery Grant Program and advocate for its inclusion in the final state budget.

To learn more about this program and its eligibility requirements, you can visit Empire State Development’s website, or contact CenterState CEO Director of Community Investment Andrew Obernesser at        

Robert M. Simpson is president and CEO of CenterState CEO, the primary economic-development organization for Central New York. This article is drawn and edited from the “CEO Focus” email newsletter that the organization sent to members on June 3.

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