‘Back to Business’ program could leave some local firms out of business

Business

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)–A program set up to help small businesses in Erie County get through the covid pandemic is leaving out more businesses than it is bringing in.

Erie County officials call the program “Back to Business Buffalo,” using $19 million drawn from Washington’s CARES Act, but only a fraction of the businesses that applied to the program will get a piece of the pie.

Grand Island businessman Steven Supparits had bought two new cameras for his company Resurrection Studios, an audio/video production facility just before the covid pandemic shut everything down, and has been informed he is not among the lucky ones.

“I was excited at first because my pandemic unemployment is very low rate, it is the state minimum, and it is about to run out in December.”

As a sole proprietor, Supparits would not qualify to receive assistance through the Payroll Protection Program, so he and more than 5,000 other local small businesses applied for “Back to Business” support.

Supparits got his bid in early, but had to wait for weeks to get the bad news, “then my application sat for 6 weeks while everyone else’s applications got in. Then it looks like, according to their releases and the email they sent out, was they just processed everybody and went through.”

Only about a fourth of the businesses that applied for funding, 1,366—the approval process was turned over to 43North, a local agency that recruits and promotes startup businesses–County Executive Mark Poloncarz described some of the criteria involved in the decision making.

“We also wanted to identify places where there were distressed census tracts, so to speak, minority and women owned enterprises.”

Supparits, who lives on Grand Island but produces a number of shows in Buffalo, said he was troubled by the qualifications used in the selection process.

“I don’t understand why a business owner’s race or sex should have any decision on whether their business qualifies for a grant or not.”

A spokesperson for 43North said, the agency will be issuing a report later this month which should shed some light on their decision making.

Poloncarz added, the relative few businesses getting help is why officials in Washington need to come through with more money, “that is why we need another round of small business assistance from the federal government.”

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