Federal unemployment and small business help is available


Staff of Rep. Brian Higgins explain how some of the new programs will work for the unemployed and small businesses across the Buffalo area

With the federal government providing boosts to the unemployed and small businessses during the coronavirus pandemic, some wonder how either process will work.

Staff for Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, said the state will administer the additional federal unemployment assistance.

“We understand it has been difficult for residents to get through,” Theresa Kennedy, communications director for Higgins, said about the state’s unemployment office. 

She said the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the second coronavirus-related package approved by Congress, will provide $500 million for administrative assistance to overwhelmed state unemployment offices.

This graphic explains the process in New York to sign up for advanced unemployment benefits

To apply for the enhanced Unemployment Insurance benefits or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, go to labor.ny.gov/signin or call 1-888-209-8124.

Eligible recipients will get back pay from the date in which they were technically unemployed.

The state Department of Labor states in its Frequently Asked Questions section the following: “I was unable to file my claim during the week I was separated from my employer because of issues with the DOL website and/or UI call center. Will I still receive that week’s benefits?
ANSWER: Yes, you will receive all benefits to which you are entitled. Your claim will start on the day you were separated from your employer, and we will backdate any claims that are not timely processed due to any issues with the DOL website or UI call center.”

Anyone not eligible for the enhanced unemployment insurance can apply for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

Either program offers up to 39 weeks of benefits, plus an additional $600 per week until July 31, 2020.

Those who have exhausted their benefits after July 1, 2019, can apply for enhanced unemployment benefits and get an up to $600 per week until July 31, 2020.

To apply for the enhanced benefits, file on these days based on your last name.

  • A – F file on Monday
  •  G – N file on Tuesday
  • O – Z file on Wednesday
  • Missed your day? File on Thurs-Fri-Sat

For small business relief, Kennedy said the Small Business Development centers are good resources.

Here is a Fact Sheet created by Higgins’ staff for small business relief.  

The programs include paycheck protection, which acts as a bridge for organizations that want to retain employees and their salaries. This program is only eligible for small business, 501(c)(3) non-profits, 501(c)(19) veterans organizations, tribal businesses, sole proprietors, independent contractors and self-employed individuals.

There is the Economic Injury Disaster Loans and Emergency Economic Injury Grants for small businesses experiencing significant economic harm in a declared disaster area such as New York state.

This program is only open to entities with 500 or fewer employees, small businesses, sole proprietorships, independent contractors, cooperatives, tribal businesses and most non-profits.

The disaster loan program is a 30-year loan for a maximum of $2 million with an interest rate of 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for nonprofits.

The injury grant program is an immediate advance of money up to $10,000 received within three days of applying. This money does not need to be paid back.

There is also an Employee Retention Credit, a refundable payroll tax credit for 50% of wages paid to certain employees.

Employers and nonprofits whose operations are fully or partially suspended because of a government order are eligible for this program if they have experienced a 50% or greater reduction in quarterly receipts. This program is available until Dec. 31.

If the business or nonprofit is already receiving assistance from the Paycheck Protection Program, they cannot be eligible for the retention credit.

For more information, reach out to your local small business administration assistance centers:

National: 1-800-659-2955

Email: disastercustomerservice@sba.gov

website: SBA.gov

Erie County: 716-878-4030

Email: mccartsa@buffalostate.edu

website: sbdc.buffalostate.edu

Niagara County: 716-210-2515

Email: oswald@niagaracc.suny.edu

website: niagarasbdc.org

Chautauqua, Allegany, Cattaraugus counties: 716-338-1024

Email: CourtneyCuratolo@mail.sunyjcc.edu
website: https://www.sbdcjcc.org/

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