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Senate Republicans Propose COVID-19 Relief Package for Restaurants
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Senate Republicans announce a COVID-19 restaurant relief package.
Credit: New York NOW

New York State's COVID-19 Economy

As restaurants continue to grapple with state restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Republicans in the State Senate have unveiled a package of bills aimed at providing direct relief to those businesses while the state works out a more long-term solution.

The legislation follows a separate package approved last week, and sponsored by Democrats, aimed at helping small businesses, including restaurants, through the pandemic.

The package announced by Republicans Tuesday would exempt small businesses from penalties related to higher unemployment insurance rates, create a limited sales tax exemption for restaurants, offer interest-free loans, and more.

State Sen. George Borrello, R-Chautauqua, said Democrats in the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo haven’t done enough to provide relief to restaurants during the pandemic.

“We need to take decisive action right now,” Borrello said. “The state needs to step up and help us ensure that this industry is able to continue on and prosper. It is the lifeblood of New York state.”

The package would provide a broad blanket of options for the state’s restaurants to seek relief during the remainder of the pandemic. In some cases, those opportunities would extend beyond the pandemic as well.

Several parts of the package would simply delay certain deadlines for restaurants, like a 90-day grace period to pay state fees and penalties and a postponement of monthly sales and payroll taxes.

Other bills would redirect state revenues into special funds to help restaurants. One bill, from State Sen. Mike Martucci, R-Orange, would direct fines collected by the State Liquor Authority, into a small business relief fund.

“By providing this financial support at this critical time in the restaurant industry, we can ensure that our restaurants are able to rebound strongly from COVID,” Martucci said.

Given that Republicans currently hold the minority in the Senate, it’s unlikely that the bills would be taken up in their current form. Significant bills are typically sponsored and amended by the majority party before passage.

Democrats in the Senate, last week, approved their own package of relief bills for small businesses. That included a moratorium on evictions for small businesses, a freeze on unemployment insurance premiums, a cap on third-party delivery fees, and more.

The package was only approved by the Senate, for now, but could meet approval from Democrats in the Assembly in the coming weeks.

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