Republican senators including Pam Helming and Rich Funke call for measures to relieve small businesses during pandemic

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The COVID-19 pandemic that has shuttered bars and restaurants to the public means take-out orders are the only way these businesses can survive for the time being. That’s a good reason to table any budget proposal that bans single-use polystyrene containers to provide takeout food, according to a number of state senators representing Western New York and the Rochester/Finger Lakes region.

“Now, more than ever we have to come together as a state to protect public health and safeguard the future of jobs in upstate New York,” stated Sen. Pam Helming, R-Canandaigua.

A joint press release came from Helming, and fellow Republican senators Rich Funke of Fairport; Joe Robach of Greece; Rob Ortt of North Tonawanda; Chris Jacobs of Buffalo; Mike Ranzenhofer of Amherst; and George Borrello of Silver Creek.

The senators called for establishing a $890 million Small Business Emergency Assistance Fund for the state. Additionally, the delegation called for tabeling any budget proposals to ban the use of serviceware, including takeout containers. “This proposed ban is especially concerning due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the reliance many restaurants have on sterile, single use polystyrene containers to provide takeout food,” the release stated.

The senators want state funds rededicated to provide 0% interest loans to help local small businesses meet their obligations, while employees continue to receive paychecks and any other benefits to which they are entitled.

“Additionally, although discussions regarding the State Budget are ongoing, it appears that a ban on polystyrene takeout containers is being considered. Nearly 800 local jobs in Canandaigua depend on the production of these products and it is the most hygienic way for local restaurants to provide takeout service and keep their doors open during this pandemic,” stated Helming. “Banning these takeout containers is wrong for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it would jeopardize the health of New York’s citizens,” she added.

Funke mentioned Dolco, which operates plants in Bloomfield and Richmond in his 55th District to produce polystyrene products and employ hundreds of people.

“I'm calling on the Governor and the Senate and Assembly majorities to end any consideration of banning polystyrene in the State Budget. Additionally, this budget must include an emergency aid package to support our local small businesses. This is critically important and we should not adopt a budget without it,” Funke stated.

“I am joining with my Senate colleagues to call on the Governor to establish the Small Business Emergency Assistance Fund for the State of New York to assist the thousands of businesses that are struggling. The Governor needs to ensure these common sense measures are in place to safeguard jobs and New York’s economy,” stated Robach.

The $890 million would come from state settlement funds that are currently earmarked for use during economic uncertainty, according to the delegation. The monies would be distributed by the state through grants, loans and emergency assistance relief to New York State small businesses impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

The delegation is also supporting a proposal that would: Create a 0% interest loan program to help small businesses meet their payroll commitments; repurpose available tax credits to help the needs of the state’s existing small businesses; use all economic development discretionary funding for existing small businesses within the state; extend business tax remittance deadlines; and temporarily suspend all regulatory fees on small businesses.