On March 16 — the same day the Dow Jones Average suffered its steepest drop since the Black Monday crash of Oct. 1987 —the Five-Borough Chamber Alliance sent an open letter to city and state governments requesting multiple proactive actions to support small businesses throughout New York City that are suffering as a result of COVID-19.
The chambers of commerce represent most of the city’s 200,000 small businesses and worry about the consequences of government restrictions being placed on commerce, such as Mayor de Blasio’s executive ruling that restaurants, bars and cafes can do takeout and delivery only.
“The COVID-19 virus represents an unprecedented crisis that will have lasting economic impacts the likes of which cannot be fully quantified at this time,” reads the letter, signed by all five chamber presidents. “Restaurants, retailers, construction firms and small manufacturers do not have the means to close and operate remotely. Depending on the duration of the crisis, many businesses will face difficult decisions that will include laying off employees, suspending hours of operation, and possibly closing indefinitely.”
The requests seek to protect mom-and-pop stores, many of which have seen a 60 to 70 percent decline, according to Queens Chamber of Commerce President Tom Grech. “They can’t stand to go much lower ... Even with loan programs, they’re great, it’s tough to pay those kind of loans back. We’re encouraging our members to be cautious ... but we still have to eat, work, pay the bills,” Grech told the Chronicle on March 11.
The alliance made 10 requests, such as the suspension of the state tax sales for at least six months and the reduction of the state business income tax in half for 2020. Most requests pertain to the repeal of tax and fee mandates, such as the city’s Commercial Rent Tax and the March 30 sidewalk cafe consent fees, but the letter also requests a temporary lift of the plastic bag ban and the creation of a fund to support small businesses that had to undertake “deep cleanings” after an employee was confirmed with a COVID-19 infection, and more.