• Coronavirus Relief for Small Businesses on the Way

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    By Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Applications for small business loans for payroll and other overhead costs will be made available on Friday.

    The New York City small business loan program, which offers zero-interest loans up to $75,000, was made available last week.

    WCBS Business Producer Neil A. Carousso spoke with New York City Small Business Services Commissioner Gregg Bishop about forgivable loans through the Small Business Administration, how to apply to the loan programs available, and what business owners should do if the coronavirus pandemic lasts several more months.

    You can listen to the interview above.

    For more information on the $349 billion in loans available through the SBA, including the time frame for receiving capital from a bank, listen and read this week’s WCBS Small Business Spotlight Podcast, focusing on small business survival, with WCBS’ Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso.

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  • Difference Makers: Tri-State Non-Profits Mobilize To Support Those In Need Amid COVID-19 Crisis

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    By Neil A. Carousso

    During this unprecedented time, we continue to share stories of “Difference Makers” in our community. Do you know someone who has gone above and beyond during the coronavirus crisis? Click here to let us know about your local heroes.

    HARTFORD, Conn. (WCBS 880) — The coronavirus pandemic has halted life as we know it, and for the most vulnerable population, non-profit organizations in the Tri-State Area are stepping up to serve.

    Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced the formation of a new charity on Wednesday named Connecticut COVID-19 Charity Connection or 4-CT, founded by two Fairfield County residents, Don Kendall and Ted Yang, who run Social Venture Partners – Connecticut, which is a collective of donors and other philanthropic groups.

    There are 12-14 non-profits in the state that are now working together as part of 4-CT to provide resources such as housing, food delivery for the elderly, and child care for those in need.

    “One of the things we’re also trying to do with 4-CT is not only provide the resources and the strategic investment, but also perhaps provide a funnel for the young people who are at home,” said Lamont, adding that it can offer a minimum wage job for students home from school because of the pandemic.

    Lamont pointed to food banks that are overwhelmed by demand. Volunteers and minimum wage workers are needed to deliver nutritious food to people’s homes while adhering to social distancing guidelines. Most people unable to get food are most vulnerable to contracting coronavirus, especially elderly residents.

    There are people who would like to volunteer, but are concerned about their own safety.

    “Volunteers who used to serve food at the soup kitchen are now driving,” said David Munshine, of the Munshine Group, based in New Jersey, which specializes in marketing for non-profit organizations.

    Arm In Arm, an organization in Princeton and Trenton, they are delivering to doorsteps,” Munshine told WCBS producer Neil A. Carousso. “They’ve seen a surge in volunteers, who when they go out to get their own groceries, they can drop off a few bags of groceries for people who can’t get out.”

    Building Homes for Heroes was established after 9/11 to provide mortgage-free homes to veterans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is now sending money to vets who are losing wages because of the coronavirus pandemic.

    “Those who have been traumatized in the past, those who suffer from PTSD, any sort of trauma is a trigger for many of them, unfortunately, and [the coronavirus pandemic] certainly meets that definition,” Munshine said, noting many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

    Seventy-eight percent of Americans say they’re living paycheck to paycheck, according to a 2017 report by employment website CareerBuilder.

    Stamford Mayor David Martin launched “Stamford Together” – a citywide volunteer program to provide support for the emergency response efforts related to the COVID-19 health crisis.

    “Senior outreach program: Some of them are alone and they may need help getting their prescription, or getting food from the grocery store, or getting meals delivered or whatever it is that they may have as a special need,” Mayor Martin told WCBS 880 reporter Sean Adams.

    One can also distribute meals to school children and those with medical experience are needed to test patients for coronavirus.

    “I really am moved by the fact that people are coming forward who want to volunteer, who want to help during this crisis,” Mayor Martin said, emphasizing every precaution will be taken to protect volunteers.

    Tri-State Non-Profit Organizations in Need of Volunteers and Resources:

    Arm In Arm​

    Building Homes for Heroes

    Monmouth Conservation Foundation

    Mustard Seed School


    Project Self-Sufficiency

    Stamford Together


    Front-line Appreciation Group

    Feed the Frontline Workers of NYC

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  • Small Business Survival: SBA Loans Available for Companies Impacted by Coronavirus

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    By Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — $349 billion in loans are available through the Small Business Administration as part of the newly enacted stimulus package to support businesses and their employees during the coronavirus pandemic.

    On this week’s WCBS Small Business Spotlight Podcast focusing on small business survival, sponsored by BNB Bank, Joe Connolly speaks with Steve Bulger, SBA Atlantic Region II administrator, including New York and New Jersey, about the two small business loans available this week.

    The Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program application is currently available on the SBA website. Eligible businesses can apply for up to $2 million to pay overhead costs, including salaries and rent with 30 years to pay back. EIDL payments are waived for the first year.

    “I’m telling small businesses 2-3 weeks before you really end up with the money in your bank account,” Bulger told Connolly of the EIDL.

    Any small business owners with 500 employees or less, including sole-proprietors, can apply for the Paycheck Protection Program on the SBA website starting this Friday, April 3.

    “That program is going to start this Friday and is going to be able to provide loans, forgivable loans in most cases, to small businesses to try and get them through the next three months, keeping their people on payroll, paying some of your rent, utilities, mortgage bills and basically allowing you to get through this period,” Bulger said, adding, “We believe that money will go out quick.”

    He said owners will receive Paycheck Protection Program loans in a “week or less or a little more” in some cases after applying.

    Businesses are also eligible for tax credits if they retain employees on their payroll. Up to $10,000 of payroll and health benefits per employee can be redeemed for a 50 percent tax credit to businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, including from the shutdown of non-essential businesses.

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  • NY Events Business Forced to Cancel Gatherings Sees Virtual Promise

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    By Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — An events company that was created in 2004 out of the desire to meet new people and connect New Yorkers has made a necessary pivot online when businesses were shuttered amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    “We probably would have been in close to bankruptcy or in some serious situation where we may not have been able to bounce back from it,” said Dave Cervini, founder of The New York Social Network that hosts 9-18 creative activities a week from nights at the bar to hiking to scavenger hunts.

    He created an events company because he wanted to meet a woman. Cervini was a single man living on the Upper West Side while working in promotions and dabbled in on-air broadcasting at Clear Channel Communications.

    “I was an events planner for the radio station as well as being on the air at some of them, and I said, you know, there are things that I want to do: I want to go camping, I want to go hiking, I want to go to a Yankees game, I want to check out a museum, I want to do a tour, but I don’t want to do it alone,” said Cervini.

    He sought out to create experiences for like-minded people, and if he met “someone special,” it would be a bonus. For six years, Cervini created events for non-profit organizations while working at Clear Channel, before leaving the radio company and moving full-time into entrepreneurship.

    “The New York Social Network is a business that came out of a passion and a hobby,” Cervini said. “Everything that was on the schedule when I planned an event was something that I loved to do, and so, I always joke when I’m bringing people on a hike, I say, ‘Welcome to my office,’” which he repeats at all events he hosts.

    Since Gov. Andrew Cuomo shutdown all non-essential businesses last week, Cervini was forced to make an adjustment to keep his thriving experiential business alive. The New York Social Network had about 80 events scheduled through July. After canceling in-person events for the foreseeable future, he took his business online.

    “The virtual part of it keeps us alive, it keeps us in contact with people who belong to the group and it will be something that we continue to offer beyond when we are able to get back together again,” said Cervini who has seen promising results and has heard positive feedback from customers this week.

    “We have nights where we do group dinners,” he said of his virtual events. “Everybody sits down in front of their computers and we get on Zoom and we have a dozen people that participate in a dinner and they all bring their own food and we have nice chats.”

    Cervini tells WCBS 880 it will host virtual game nights, murder mysteries and more to offer people th outlet that people have been deprived of while social distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

    “It’s been a challenge to convert over and I think that the best part is that people are screaming to have some kind of social interaction because a lot of people are stuck at home right now,” he said.

    Event prices are cheap, he says, to encourage repeat customers. Some events cost $8, others $10, and varies depending on the type of experience. One can purchase a lifetime membership for $200, according to The New York Social Network website. A lifetime membership includes discounts on gatherings.

    His company has been a catalyst for 90 marriages, including Cervini whose wedding was the 87th to come out of The New York Social Network.


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  • NJ Woman Starts Effort To Help Medical Professionals At Frontlines Of COVID-19 Crisis

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    By Neil A. Carousso

    NEW JERSEY (WCBS 880) – A community is coming together in Chatham and Madison, NJ to support the doctors and nurses on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.

    Chatham resident Liz Bernich saw a Facebook post from her friend last week about a group in Huntington, Long Island that delivered food to their local hospital for the staff who are testing and treating patients for COVID-19. She shared the post with the Chatham Community Forum on Facebook to see if there was interest do the same at Morristown Medical Center. She became inundated with messages from people who were interested in supporting the initiative.

    “My phone was just lighting up,” Bernich, who is a principal at The Caldwell Partners, told WCBS producer Neil A. Carousso via Skype from her home where she is working while non-essential businesses are shutdown.

    Soon after gathering interest from her community, residents in Madison, where her husband works as a high school teacher, contacted her asking if they can volunteer. She launched the Front Line Appreciation Group or FLAG on Facebook to mobilize volunteers and encourage them and first responders to share their experiences with the organically growing group of community members.

    Bernich contacted a local restaurant on Friday morning to order take-out for that night. The restaurant was thrilled to have business since Gov. Phil Murphy ordered all restaurants statewide be closed on Monday, except take-out and delivery services, to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

    Friends connected her with nurses in the emergency room at Morristown Medical Center.

    “We found out very quickly that a lot of the folks in the ICU units were being basically locked down in their units during their shifts, so they’re unable to access the cafeteria,” Bernich said.

    Nurses and doctors working 12-hour shifts during a global pandemic were ordered not to leave their stations to prevent contamination of other hospital areas, patients and employees.

    “You can tell they need the energy, they need the support, they’re stressed, they have different protocols, more to worry about,” said Bernich. “I met with a nurse…she was crying and it’s hard there.”

    Medical professionals are also lacking basic supplies, including N95 respirator masks, gloves and gowns to protect themselves from the deadly and highly contagious novel virus. Bernich said she has even collected medical supplies to donate to Morristown Medical Center, but she now encourages people looking to donate supplies to hospitals to do so through government channels.

    She personally delivered food to hospital workers on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak through the weekend. Now, local eateries suffering economically are delivering healthy dinners that FLAG members order.

    “You don’t always know how many people you’re connected to that are connected to people on the frontlines until something like this happens and we’ve gotten notes left and right from mothers and nieces and aunts, grandparents, of how much good we’re doing and it just really feels good, feels great,” she said.

    Bernich received more than $35,000 dollars in just three days of the Facebook group’s existence.

    “Many of those donations are $10 and $20 increments,” she emphasized.

    All of the funds are used for food delivery for staff at Morristown Medical Center.

    Just like Bernich was inspired by a friend’s post, she hopes people will see what FLAG is doing in Chatham and Madison and spread joy to hospital workers in their communities.

    “We’ve already been able to get this up-and-running in Summit, New Jersey to support Overlook hospital, and now, we’re getting this up-and-running in Wycoff, New Jersey,” Bernich said, adding, “When I say ‘we’re getting this up-and-running,’ we’re just inspiring people, we’re not doing any of the leg work, but they’re welcome to use our process.”

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Neil A. Carousso is the producer in charge of content for the "Mooch and the Mrs. with Anthony and Deidre Scaramucci" podcast, exclusively via the platform.
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