July 30, 2020 By Allie Griffin
A group of small business owners from across the borough came together on the steps of Queens Borough Hall Wednesday to demand more financial help from legislators as they try to keep their businesses afloat amid the pandemic.
The mom-and-pop shop owners are struggling to pay their rent from being shuttered during the worst of COVID-19. Many are in need of immediate financial relief–with their bills continuing to pile up.
The store owners are calling for help from legislators as they try to survive while conforming with the state’s COVID-19 safety requirements. They also warn that if they go out of business, many local people will also lose their jobs.
“Help me,” Katch Astoria co-owner Roseann McSorley said, appealing directly to Governor Andrew Cuomo. “We aren’t struggling only with our store rents, we are also struggling with our own home rents and costs of raising our families.”
Council Member Donovan Richards — the all but confirmed Democratic nominee for Queens Borough President — also spoke at the rally.
He said local business owners deserve grants from the government. They don’t want loans from the government, he said, that will put them in more debt.
“We want grants for our small businesses to stay open,” Richards said. “We don’t want them drowning in debt for the next 30 or 40 years.”
The Wednesday rally was organized by the small business advocacy group Queens Together, which sprung up at the height of the pandemic in New York City.
Jaime-Faye Bean, co-founder of Queens Together, said the city and state’s relief efforts have not reached most mom-and-pops in the borough.
The group is advocating for immediate commercial rent relief as well as disaster grants and loans.
Queens Together also wants a permanent cap on third-party app delivery fees, such as Seamless and Grubhub that hurt small restaurants. The current cap is only on a temporary basis.
Several businesses in Queens — both new and long-standing — have already shut their doors permanently due to the financial burden of the coronavirus pandemic.
McSorley, the owner of Katch Astoria, urged the state to provide more help so that more do not close.
“Kill the virus, not the businesses in Queens,” she said.