Tag Archives: Small Business Administration

Op-ed: Small businesses vital to Queens and the nation


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BY U.S. REP GRACE MENG

What do the local pizzeria, optometrist and neighborhood nail salon have in common? They are all small businesses; and if you walk down any commercial strip in Queens — from Bell Boulevard to Myrtle Avenue and Main Street to Queens Boulevard — you’ll see plenty of them.

Why? Because small businesses drive the economy here in our borough and across the nation. They are the engine that stimulates economic growth and the backbone of the region’s economy.

Small businesses also bring investment and innovation to communities; provide jobs to local residents; and heavily contribute to their local tax base, funding everything from schools, police and many other municipal services.

According to federal government statistics, 99.7 percent of all employer firms are small businesses. Small businesses also generate 63 percent of new jobs and make up 48.5 percent of private-sector employment.

With the prosperity of New York City and the country so closely tied to the success of small businesses, it is critical that government do all it can to help entrepreneurs make their businesses successful. On the federal level, a great deal of assistance is provided by the Small Business Administration (SBA), an independent agency created by Congress to assist, counsel and protect the interests of small-business owners. The SBA offers many programs for individuals to start and run a small business, such as providing grants and loans, and help to develop business plans and obtain government contracts, among many other services.

I urge all entrepreneurs to make use of the valuable resources that the SBA provides, whether it’s an idea for a startup or questions about operating an existing business. Go to SBA.gov to tap into the huge array of these services.

Just two weeks ago, I arranged for the head of the SBA, Maria Contreras-Sweet, to visit Queens, where she saw borough businesses firsthand. While meeting with area entrepreneurs, she, too, encouraged local small-business owners to take advantage of all that the agency has to offer.

As a member of the House Small Business Committee, I’ve made helping small businesses a top priority during my first term in Congress.

After organizing and taking part in a rare Congressional field hearing in Queens, I worked with the SBA to make it easier for entrepreneurs to gain critical access to capital. I also helped arrange for additional Small Business Development Center (SBDC) services in Queens, and I continue my efforts to secure a third full-service facility in the borough—a site that would be more central to our district and meet the language and cultural needs of area business owners.

There are several other initiatives I’ve been proud to spearhead, from hosting seminars to sponsoring and supporting legislation to helping entrepreneurs impacted by Hurricane Sandy. During my second term in 2015, I plan to continue these and other initiatives, and I’ll continue to work closely with the SBA and other government agencies. We must ensure that entrepreneurs are aware of the resources that are available to them, and that they stay up to date with the ever-changing business landscape.

With so much at stake, it is imperative that we help small businesses grow and thrive in order to ensure that our economy moves in the right direction and continues to recover from the economic downturn. As the daughter of Queens small-business owners, I have a profound understanding of the struggles and needs of small businesses. We cannot afford to let them down.

In addition to government resources, consumers must do their part. It is essential that Queens residents support small businesses in their communities. I’ll be doing so on National Small Business Saturday this Nov. 29. I hope you will as well.

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng is a Democrat representing Queens.

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Bayside small businesses praised by feds


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the borough president's office

With more small businesses than big box stores on Bell Boulevard, the commercial strip was the perfect destination for the head of the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) when she made the trip to New York last week.

“I’m so excited to be here in Bayside,” said Maria Contreras-Sweet, administrator of SBA. “Unlike many other places, Bell Boulevard has such a high concentration of small businesses and I want to keep this area thriving.”

Contreras-Sweet, along with Congresswoman Grace Meng, spoke to the owners of Bayside Milk Farm and went behind the food market’s deli to try out some of the food.

During the trip, Contreras-Sweet urged business owners to use the free resources that SBA provides. Many new initiatives, Contreras-Sweet said, are meant to help small businesses modernize their tools.

Small businesses can get technical assistance through a program called Operation HOPE. Entrepreneurs can also get loans and business counseling through SBA’s Direct Resource Packet, which brings together information about lenders and counselors in one document online.

“Thank you for your voice and thank you for all the great work you’re doing,” Meng said to Contreras-Sweet.

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Small business advocates push for new Queens development center


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Queens needs another small business development center, but one with flexible hours staffed with “culturally competent” workers, advocates and lawmakers said Tuesday. 

The borough currently has two heavily-used centers, one in Long Island City’s LaGuardia Community College and another in Jamaica’s York College.

Advisers give free consultations and offer low-cost training at the centers, which are partially funded by federal Small Business Administration (SBA) funds.

But minority and immigrant owners struggle too much with language barriers at the existing sites to benefit from the services, small business owners and advocates said. And conflicting work hours are a huge deterrent.

“These centers run regular hours. But when you’re a business, you work 80 hours a week,” said Bill Imada, co-founder of the Asian Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce.

Imada and a panel of small business advocates urged the SBA to fix its outreach to minority owners during a Congressional Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce hearing held at Queens College.

Local shop owners and Congressmember Grace Meng, who held the rare field hearing, said underserved areas like Flushing need help from staff members who speak mostly Chinese, Korean and Spanish.

“The other locations are very inconvenient for us in Flushing,” said Zhejiang Chamber of Commerce President Howard Dai. “It would give small business owners easier access, and information would spread word of mouth.”

Businesses can shut down when its owners, seeking aid, are turned away due to bad translations, said Joyce Moy, the executive director of the Asian and Asian-American Research Institute at CUNY.

“A third center in Queens, particularly with Asian and Hispanic language capacities, is urgently needed,” Moy said. “Without competence in culture, language and technical support, all of this outreach is nothing but false promises.”

The SBA’s acting chief of staff, Michele Chang, said the administration would implement more training and urged business owners to get virtual help using the SBA’s online learning center.

“We understand that being a small business owner is a hard job,” Chang said. “You work all hours of the day. It’s your lifeblood.”

 

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Fed money to help businesses bounce back after Sandy


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photos

Small businesses in the borough will get nearly $200,000 in federal aid to bounce back after Sandy.

The two-year grant will be given to the Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC), representatives from the borough announced late last week.

The package is part of the more than $6 million the Small Business Administration (SBA) gave to the state to support its local business recovery efforts after the superstorm.

“Small businesses are what drive the economy in Queens, New York City and the entire nation,” said Congressmember Grace Meng, who sits on the House’s Small Business Committee. “These critical funds will go a long way towards helping those impacted by Sandy get back on their feet.”

The funds will be used for counseling and training programs for business owners, especially in the Rockaways, who lost customers or who suffered damages to their stores from the storm, said QEDC executive director Seth Bornstein.

The nonprofit also plans to offer disaster relief assistance to “women-owned and disadvantaged small businesses in Queens,” and conduct home improvement contractor training workshops.

“Queens was hit so hard by Sandy, and we lost so many businesses and jobs,” Bornstein said. “We especially look forward to working in the Rockaways, as we see the potential to have a really positive impact there.”

 

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NY extends deadline for FEMA disaster assistance programs


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

An additional extension has been granted for two government programs that financially help Sandy survivors in New York State, announced Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Anyone living in New York City and Long Island, or the counties of Westchester, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Ulster and Sullivan who suffered losses from the storm, including rent, essential home repairs and personal property losses may be eligible for grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will have until April 13 to register for FEMA assistance.

The previous deadline was March 29.

Survivors also have until April 13 to register with the Small Business Administration (SBA) for low-interest disaster loans.

Homeowners that apply may be eligible for up to $200,000 to repair or replace damages to their primary residence, and renters can receive up to $40,000 for replacement of personal property. Additionally, businesses and private nonprofits may be able to borrow up to $2 million for repairs and replacement of property.

To register with FEMA, visit www.DisasterAssistance.gov or call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST, seven days a week.

To apply for a SBA loan, visit DisasterLoan.SBA.

 

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Sandy aid deadlines extended for FEMA grants, SBA loans


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

The deadlines for two government programs to financially help Sandy survivors in New York State have been extended until March 29.

Anyone living in New York City and Long Island, or the counties of Westchester, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Sullivan who suffered losses from the storm, including rent, essential home repairs and personal property losses may be eligible for grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Even if a person has insurance, they should register with FEMA by the deadline in case they later find out their losses are not fully covered.

Survivors can also register with the Small Business Administration (SBA) for low-interest disaster loans.

Homeowners that apply may be eligible for up to $200,000 to repair or replace damages to their primary residence, and renters can receive up to $40,000 for replacement of personal property. Additionally, businesses and private nonprofits may be able to borrow up to $2 million for repairs and replacement of property.

To register with FEMA, visit www.DisasterAssistance.gov or call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST, seven days a week.

To apply for a SBA loan, visit DisasterLoan.SBA.gov/ELA.

 

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Federal agencies aid LIC small businesses


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Dozens of small business owners brought to the end of their ropes by Superstorm Sandy received a helping hand in Long Island City.

“You’re overwhelmed by losing your business and then you have to fill out paperwork on top of it,” said Gianna Cerbone-Teoli, owner of Manducatis Rustica Restaurant. “One guy said it would be easier to go bankrupt, but it’s clear there are other ways to do things.”

Representatives from the Small Business Administration and FEMA doled out financial aid to some 22 hurting businesses on Tuesday, November 27 at the restaurant. The agents answered questions and helped owners eligible for both physical disaster and economic injury loans file for assistance.

“It was extraordinary, plain and simple. It gave me a lot of hope,” said Cerbone-Teoli, who suffered flooding in her restaurant’s basement and lost all perishables and food in the freezer. “They were very helpful.”

The Vernon Boulevard restaurant owner said the federal representatives were even able to calm down irate and panicked business owners.

“They brought it down to another level,” Cerbone-Teoli said. “They came out, they answered questions, and they went beyond their call of duty. It was just amazing what they did.”

Business owners get help after Sandy


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

With some of their shops damaged or destroyed by Superstorm Sandy and unsure where to go for help, business owners were finally able to find out what options are available to them.

Several agencies set up camp at Resorts World New York City on Friday, November 16 to help owners of south Queens get the money they need to reopen. They included New York Business Solutions, the Department of Labor, and the Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) also had a table at the forum and had a list of relief options available to proprietors. Mark Randle, a public information officer for the SBA, said that there were several loan options available at rates as low as 1.69 percent with repayment periods as long as 30 years.

Randle encouraged those who lost some or most of their business to apply. Business owners become eligible for more grants by applying for an SBA loan, he said.

“I can’t urge you strongly enough to go through the process and apply,” he said.

And while many shops and businesses were damaged by Sandy, others may have suffered only economic damage because power had been shut off. SBA has working capital loans for business owners to accommodate these needs.

The deadline to apply to these SBA loans is 60 days after the storm struck the area.

Nicola Campbell, who opened her restaurant, Chef Mom Grill & Bakery in the Rockaways less than a year ago, had a significant amount of damage because of the storm. A wall in the eatery was severely damaged, Campbell said, and most of the equipment in the restaurant had been destroyed.

The single mom of three said she didn’t have flood insurance, only general liability insurance on the restaurant. Because she had been open for less than a year, she thought she had few loan alternatives. But after sitting down with an SBA representative, Campbell had a few options to get her business back up and running.

“As soon as I get home, I will be on top of this because I really do need it,” she said. “This is my only income.”

And although there is a long road ahead for many business owners, some were reassured that there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Harry Wells, director of CUNY York’s Small Business Development Center and the panel’s moderator, told owners that, while things may seem bad right now, there are possibilities and there is promise down the road.

“I’m not trying to belittle the situation,” he said. “But a lot of the times, there’s gold at the end of the rainbow.”