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Erie County: Supporting local business during COVID-19 pandemic

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Mon, Apr 27th 2020 02:40 pm

Erie County Business Task Force, Erie County Office of Agriculture, ECIDA, Buffalo Niagara Partnership working to aid local farmers & businesses

On Monday, the Erie County COVID-19 Business Task Force announced several new initiatives aimed at helping local businesses impacted by the COVID-19 shutdown, including the hard-hit agribusiness sector. In partnership with the Task Force, the Erie County Office of Agriculture has developed an “Erie Grown” website to promote the purchase of local and regional farm products by linking consumers with available local food products, support farmers navigating the pandemic and provide a resource hub for consumers and growers.

Another, separate initiative developed with the Erie County Industrial Development Agency has created an emergency loan and sales tax abatement program for qualified county-based businesses affected by the governor’s “PAUSE” orders. The Task Force also announced a new online resource from the Buffalo Niagara Partnership for pandemic-affected businesses, the COVID-19 Business Link.

The Task Force’s previously announced initiatives and actions include the WNY Impact Survey, the ECIDA/RDC Small Business Disaster Relief Loan Program, relief for current RDC loan clients and the easing of ECIDA recapture policy penalties for businesses impacted by the pandemic.

“Erie County businesses are feeling the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I thank the Task Force for targeting assistance where it is needed. Agriculture is one of the county’s important economic sectors and the new Erie Grown website from the Office of Agriculture will provide a direct link between our farmers and county residents, expanding our agricultural markets and getting fresh local produce on our tables,” Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said. “The vast majority of farms in Erie County are family-owned and operated, annually producing millions of dollars in crops, livestock, poultry and other products. Erie Grown provides an outstanding opportunity for these farmers to find buyers for their produce.”

The Erie Grown website can be found at erie.gov/eriegrown/.

The Office of Agriculture was created to address the loss of farmland and to improve the viability of farming in Erie County. The agricultural sector locally and nationwide has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in low milk and commodity prices, disruption of supply chains, loss of restaurant business and the loss of institutional food service customers. Family farms and small cooperatives have been particularly impacted and the need to “buy local” was targeted as a way to increase direct-to-customer sales. The Erie Grown website will allow anyone to identify and locate farm stands, farmers markets, community supported agriculture and related businesses that are selling locally grown/produced agricultural products in a COVID sensitive manner.

Farmers and growers also have the ability to register their operations to include information about what they have available, when and where.

County-based businesses impacted by the ongoing pandemic may also find some relief with the ECIDA’s Emergency Loan and Sales Tax Program, available to businesses that need working capital, are investing in their production, or are increasing their distribution/supplies in response to the crisis. The program can help Erie County businesses in two ways: by providing working capital/equipment gap financing loans or through an ECIDA sales tax abatement.

ECIDA Chair and Task Force Co-Chair Brenda McDuffie said, “These new initiatives by the Task Force in partnership with the ECIDA and Buffalo Niagara Partnership build on the initial actions taken by the group to address the immediate needs of local businesses as they deal with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The ECIDA Emergency Loan and Sales Tax Program is another tool made available by the agency to provide existing resources to local businesses to help them survive in a COVD-19 economy.”

Companies can bundle these emergency programs or take advantage of them individually. The program runs through Dec. 31.

For more information or to apply, call 716-856-6525 or visit www.ecidany.com.

Poloncarz added, “We are working across all sectors to identify local business needs during this crisis and develop ways to address them. I thank our partners at the ECIDA and the Buffalo Niagara Partnership as they continue to provide critical support and resources to our business community in this time of need, working closely with companies to keep moving forward. The results of the partnership’s recent WNY Business Impact Survey will identify many COVID-19 impacts on local business and these will be the focus of future Task Force actions.”

The partnership has unveiled a new online informational connection platform for businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The site has a repository of curated information for local businesses and an online form to allow businesses to ask questions not answered through existing resources on the platform.

Visit the BNP COVID-19 business link at www.thepartnership.org/businesslink/.

Erie County Business Task Force Co-Chair Scott Pallotta said, “The Task Force members’ engagement has been focused on getting programs started quickly. There is a continuing need for businesses to access information as the shutdown continues and the Task Force encourages businesses to utilize the partnership’s business link to either get the information they need or to share their expertise with their peers.”

For more information on the Erie County Office of Agriculture, visit https://www2.erie.gov/environment/index.php?q=agriculture.

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