TOWN OF MONTGOMERY- Marie Burger-Zaccagnino said she was grateful for a grant through the town’s business relief program, which paid off her outstanding rents and bills, and helped her business bounce back amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“If it wasn’t for that grant, I would be closed now,” Burger-Zaccagnino of Walden repeated several times during an interview.
Ten years ago, Burger-Zaccagnino, 71, started Tickled Pink, a post-mastectomy store to help cancer survivors. Over the years, her business barely makes ends meet and does not make enough money to hire staff. The fact of not generating any payroll does not qualify her business for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, a loan that helps small businesses get through the pandemic.
The grant she received is a portion of a $82,000 fund that the town’s community response team has recently allocated to 47 local businesses hit by the pandemic. The program was made possible through community donations since it was launched in April.
It awarded cash grants in the form of direct payment to creditors and vendors to small businesses, which supported them to stay open, remain current on rent, inventory and utilities.
Victor Marrero, co-owner of VIP Barbershop in the Village of Walden, is among the business owners who have benefited from the grant. He said the grant came at a perfect time and is very helpful for his business to get back to normal. While the appointment volume is a bit down than normal out of safety fears, he hopes more clients will start to come back so the business can remain sustainable.
Supervisor Brian Maher said the awards ranged from $750 to $2,500 based on the severity of each business’s situation, and priority was given to businesses that did not receive any additional government or private aid.
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“What we have been able to do is help them pay some bills and to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but there is so much more work that needs to be done,” Maher said. “We’re working with each business to try to identify other ways we can help and other programs may be available in the future.”
Another newly launched $200,000 program operated by the town’s Industrial Development Agency has started accepting applications for financial assistance in purchasing Personal Protective Equipment. IDA executive director Conor Eckert said qualified local small businesses with no more than 50 employees and non-profit organizations would receive reimbursement of up to $10,000 for PPE or fixtures.
Maher said the community response team has raised approximately $158,000 for the business relief program, including $100,000 from the Amazon development and $50,000 by Medline. The team is planning to offer a second round of funding to local businesses through the remaining balance and upcoming fundraisers.
“As our community moves toward a direction that will be less focused on recruiting warehouses, it is important to work with the current large distribution facilities we have and recognize the value they can bring to our community,” Maher said.
“When asked to help our town in our time of need they have answered the call and I believe they will continue to be there for us moving forward. Right now we have an opportunity to maximize the value of our past developments while creating a new future.”