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Essential or non-essential: Small businesses suffer in New York during coronavirus pandemic

Courtesy of Masum Hossain

Essential businesses that will remain open but with shortened hours include: grocery stores, big-box stores, pharmacies, convenience stores and discount stores, liquor stores, garbage collection, healthcare operations, daycare centers, hardware stores, gas stations, auto-repair shops, banks, post offices, shipping businesses, veterinary clinics, pet stores, farmers markets, food banks and police stations.

Public transportation will also keep running to get medical staff, aw enforcement officers, and other essential personnel where they need to go. 

All non-essential businesses include those that are generally recreational in nature. 

The National Restaurant Association estimated that the restaurant industry would lose $225 billion over the next three months alone, leading to the loss of five to seven million jobs, according to an article from Forbes. 

While many other industries are also suffering, the government has several resources and relief programs to turn to, including emergency funding from the government, protection from eviction and business loan deferment.

On March 20, President Donald Trump tweeted, “Today I spoke with our Nation’s Small Businesses, which employ nearly half of America’s workforce. We are taking the MOST aggressive action in history to deliver fast relief to your businesses and workers. We will always protect our Small Businesses!” 

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program allows small business owners in all 50 states and territories to apply for a low-interest loan due to COVID-19. 

The New York City Employee Retention Grant Program applies to small businesses with one to four employees and grants employers up to $27,000 that covers 40% of payroll costs over the course of two months, in which they must show that they have lost 25% of their revenue due to COVID-19. 

In an interview with The Ticker, small businesses owner and Baruch College alumnus, Masum Hossain, spoke about his experience dealing with the financial hardships brought by COVID-19.

Hossain owns a pizzeria and a deli, both located in Times Square. The pizzeria, Square Pizza and Chicken,, is closed indefinitely and may not be able to open again as business is so bad Hossain explained. The deli, TSQ Food Court, which used to operate 24 hours now closes at 3 p.m. 

“We had to reduce our operation,” Hossain  said about the deli. “It didn’t even have a storefront security gate or lock system since it’s not meant to close, and so we had to board it up and padlocks.”  

He continued, “It’s difficult to pay our bills, pay rent, pay for inventory, pay vendors, even hard to pay salaries. Sales have decreased over 75% in the first week and now there are no sales as we have been forced to close as there are no customers.” 

When asked if the government is aiding him financially, he expressed that while they are programs in place to help small businesses, they are not sufficient long-term.

“New York City has put out an employee retention grant, which will cover up to 40% of salary for two months, which is not going to be enough to sustain the business. And the loans that are in place will only become an additional liability,” Hossain said. 

The loan Hossain refers to is the New York City Small Business Continuity Fund that applies to businesses with fewer than 100 employees, where employers can receive up to $75,000 in interest-free loans from the city to cover revenue losses.

In terms of if there is a rent freeze, Hossain says he does not know. 

“We’re discussing with landlords and we’re trying to get news on the, you know, the city, state and federal government to see what kind of help small businesses can get in terms of rent and bills.”

“Our business is located in a tourist area and I don’t see any tourists start traveling or be confident in traveling, especially with people not getting paid. It’s just gonna be a long recovery process,” exclaimed Hossain. 

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