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New York launches program to help small businesses, landlords navigate lease challenges amid pandemic

This week Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the start of a new small business program, which his administration says recognizes small business and landlords are facing an uphill battle.

The new program called the New York Forward Small Business Lease Assistance Partnership will provide small businesses and their landlords with informational resources and pro bono assistance to help both parties reach mutually-beneficial lease workout agreements.

This service is available to all New York State small businesses and landlords, and participation is voluntary. Over the next year, the partnership has the capacity to serve thousands of small businesses statewide.

“Small business are the backbone of any strong economy and it is critical that we work to find ways to support them during these difficult times,” Governor Cuomo said. “The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the economy has been nothing short of devastating, and through partnerships such as this, we can help to alleviate the burdens many business owners are facing. While a moratorium on commercial evictions is currently in place, this new public-private partnership will help provide an additional level of stability for small businesses and ensure they are able to play a role in helping build New York’s economy back better than before.”

As part of this program, Empire State Development is partnering with the New York State Bar Association and Start Small Think Big, a New York-based non-profit organization dedicated to supporting small, under-resourced entrepreneurs with high-quality professional services. For this partnership, Start Small will be offering pro bono legal services from its network of more than 1,000 attorneys, to commercial tenants and landlords seeking lease amendments to cope with the impacts of COVID-19. The New York State Bar Association has served as the voice of the state’s legal profession for more than 140 years and will support the recruitment and training of additional volunteer attorneys.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has unfortunately created new and unforeseen economic challenges for small business owners and landlords across the state. Working together with Start Small Think Big and the New York State Bar Association to establish this partnership, our goal is to help commercial tenants and landlords reach mutually-beneficial agreements by engaging in productive discussions and taking advantage of the free legal assistance provided through this program,” said Empire State Development Acting Commissioner and President & CEO-designate Eric Gertler.

“We are excited to partner with New York State and the New York Bar Association to help small businesses during this unprecedented time. Start Small Think Big helps small business owners grow and sustain their businesses through free legal, financial planning, and marketing services. We support a diverse network of entrepreneurs, including those who are of color, women, members of disadvantaged groups, and/or low-income by connecting them to lawyers and other high quality professionals volunteering their time to provide free 1:1 support and the expertise needed to solve their businesses’ legal, financial and marketing issues,” added Start Small Think Big Legal Program Director Alex Stepick.