October 19, 2020

Senator Gillibrand Visits The Clemens Center, Calls For Legislation To Create New Loan Program To Help Small Businesses And Live Event Venues Recover From Months Of Limited Operations

Rising Coronavirus Cases In The Southern Tier Increase Uncertainty For Hospitality and Entertainment Industries; Bipartisan RESTART Act Would Help Hard Hit Businesses Weather the Economic Crisis By Creating New Loan Program to Fund 6 Months of Payroll, Benefits, and Fixed Operating Expenses

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand visited The Clemens Center to call for legislation to support live event venues and small- and mid-sized businesses that are struggling to recover after months of limited operations due to the coronavirus crisis. The bipartisan Reviving the Economy Sustainably Towards a Recovery in Twenty-Twenty (RESTART) Act would create a new loan program to fund six months of employer and operating expenses for businesses that have lost substantial revenue and need support that the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has been unable to adequately provide.

“The recent uptick in coronavirus cases across New York is a reminder that this pandemic will be with us well into next year. The need for extended relief for arts venues, restaurants, and tourist attractions in Elmira and the state is greater than ever. Despite some venues like the Clemens Center receiving PPP, it did not go far enough to offset unprecedented revenue losses,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The next relief package must prioritize the needs of these small businesses so they can survive this economic crisis and continue providing jobs and revenue for local communities. The RESTART Act would help fill the gaps and ensure they receive the support they deserve.” 

“The immediate economic ramifications of COVID-19 are being felt by communities across the state, including Chemung County. Although some businesses have been able to adjust in order to survive, more assistance is desperately needed, especially for small businesses and those venues that are still closed, such as the Clemens Center. Small businesses and cultural institutions are critical components in our local economy and improve our quality of life. To prevent the devastating loss of these assets, we need the RESTART Act." - Kamala Keeley, President & CEO, Chemung County Chamber of Commerce 

"The Clemens Center was closed to prevent mass gatherings and help keep the public healthy. We received a PPP loan that kept our employees whole for 8 weeks. We are about to enter our 8th month of continued closure, and there is no clear end in sight. We are grateful for Senator Gillibrand’s efforts to help live venues such as ours that are economic drivers in communities all across the nation.” - Karen Cromer, Executive Director, Clemens Center

“Over these past 7 months, Elmira’s restaurants have hung together. With the support of our community and the federal PPP program we have weathered this storm, but not without substantial losses of revenue. With an uncertain end to this virus or the mandates required to provide safety for our guests and employees, the final impact could be fatal. The RESTART Actwould ensure Elmira’s restaurant and other cultural centers remain afloat.”- Bill Mott, Proprietor, Finger Lakes House Craft Beer and Wine 

As coronavirus cases rise in the Southern Tier, live event venues and the hospitality industry face growing uncertainty over how to maintain already restricted operations. The Clemens Center, which leases to more than 50 community arts organizations annually, had to shutter its theater in March and is expected to remain closed through next spring. Independent venues are forecasted to lose almost $9 billion in revenue if they have to remain dark through the end of the year. Many expect to close for good if they don’t receive federal aid adding to the more than 400,000 hospitality and leisure workers in New York State who have already lost their jobs in the past year. 

While PPP was intended to help small- and mid-sized businesses weather the economic crisis caused by COVID-19 shutdowns, many have slipped through the cracks or are in need of additional support as they struggle to maintain operations and pay their employees. Particularly, PPP has been largely unable to address the needs of theaters and live event venues, restaurants and hospitality which have experienced unprecedented revenue losses since March. 

Specifically, the RESTART Act would: 

  • Provide access to loans to cover 6 months of payroll, benefits, and fixed operating expenses for small and mid-sized businesses and nonprofits that have suffered significant revenue losses and would provide an extended 12-month covered loan period for businesses that have seen revenues decline by at least 80 percent;
  • Forgive a share of loans based on revenue declines suffered by the recipient in 2020 (or during the six-month covered loan period) compared to a year earlier, with the remainder to be paid back over 7 years, with generous loan terms. Businesses with fewer than 5,000 employees would receive even more favorable terms on loan forgiveness;
  • Offer more favorable loan terms to nonprofits, including a longer duration and a lower interest rate;
  • Defer interest payments for the first year of the loan, and defers principal payments for the first 2 years, with additional deferral available to economically distressed firms;
  • Build an origination fee structure designed to provide an incentive for banks and other financial institutions to assist the smallest businesses;
  • Allow businesses to choose when to rehire their workers and when to deploy the capital; 
  • Provide a 100% loan guarantee from the federal government.

A one-pager on the RESTART Act can be found here.