Monroe County launches new grant program for small businesses

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — County Executive Adam Bello announced a new ‘Fast Forward Monroe Small Business Grant Program’, moving $15 million in federal funding to help small business in the area. 

Lento Restaurant, here in Village Gate,  is just one of the many small businesses that will benefit from the new Fast Forward Monroe Small Business Grant program.

Art Rogers has been running Lento for almost 14 years, but was forced to lay off employees once the pandemic hit and says the business is recovering but slowly. 

“We’ve brought most people back, at least at a part time bases. revenue has gone us as well but we’re not where we would usually be. the fall is generally one of busiest best time and we have seen a big drop,” Art Rogers Chef/owner Lento Restaurant.

Rogers is already planning to apply for money through the Fast Forward Monroe Small Business Grant program, created by County Executive Adam Bello, along with business and state leaders.

The program will focus on the almost two thirds of minority business owners who are at risks of permanent closure, according the US chamber of commerce.

“The fast forward Monroe business grant program will prioritize minority and women owned business, business located in disproportionate neighborhoods and other business that have not yet received covid related aid,” said Monroe County Executive Adam Bello.

Grant funds will come from the CARES act and will be distributed to business based on the number of employees-the largest business are eligible for up to $20,000, Something business leaders say can help the community as a whole.

“75% of our members are below 50 employees and this goes right the hear of what they need right now,” said Bob Duffy, president of the Greater Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce.

“You can always go to the chains after this thing over but I think this is what makes our community small and dynamic are these independently owned business,” said Rogers.

Leaders say it’s important to do this now, so industries like retail and dinning can survive through the winter.

Applications are now being accepted and can be submitted to the county online until Nov 2nd. A link can be found here

A spokeswoman for the Republican Majority Caucus sent this statement regarding the program;

“County Executive Bello claims to champion bi-partisanship but his actions say otherwise. Not a single member of the Republican Majority or Black and Asian Democratic Caucus were invited to or notified of today’s announcement. It’s clear he is using these taxpayer funds, meant to help the community respond to the COVID-19 crisis, as propaganda for his Democrat political allies. The County Executive could have provided relief to small business owners months ago but decided to wait until less than two-weeks before Election Day to make the announcement.”

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