Mayor says help is out there for small businesses struggling amid coronavirus outbreak

Mayor de Blasio at a roundtable for community and ethnic media on Wednesday.
Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

The city is prepared to help Sunset Park dim sum parlors and other small businesses that are suffering amid the spread of coronavirus through a new small-business assistance program, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.

“We’re looking for any other relief we can find,” the mayor said at a March 11 roundtable for community and ethnic media.

Eater reported on March 10 that four of Sunset Park’s usually bustling dim sum restaurants and Cantonese banquet halls — East Harbor Seafood Palace, Bamboo Garden, Park Asia, and Affable — had shuttered amid concerns over the novel coronavirus. The spread of the virus has made customers reluctant to flock to large spaces, such as the sprawling halls that line Eighth Avenue.

The city announced its plan to assist local businesses who are losing customers on March 9. The program allows businesses with fewer than 100 employees to apply for an interest-free loan of up to $75,000 if they are able to provide proof of a 25 percent loss in customer receipts due to the coronavirus. Businesses of fewer than ten employees are also available for direct grants, the mayor said Wednesday.

While the fear of large gatherings is partially to blame for the woes of some businesses, a rash of anti-Asian sentiment due to the virus’ origins in Wuhan, China has also played a role.

De Blasio decried that vitriol, and insisted that it is impossible to catch the virus through food or drink. 

“We’re telling people not to avoid restaurants, not to avoid the normal things they do,” the mayor said. “All of our experts are adamant: you don’t get this disease by eating in a restaurant or eating takeout.” 

However, hizzoner has encouraged people to avoid crowded spaces such as rush-hour subway cars and gathering such as the New York City Half Marathon and the Manhattan Saint Patrick’s Day Parade have been cancelled. In-person SUNY and CUNY classes have been also been canceled. 

As of Thursday morning, over 60 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in New York City with over 215 cases reported throughout New York State. Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency on March 7, freeing up $30 million in the state budget for increased testing and equipment.