CLAYTON, N.Y. (WWNY) - Theaters, event centers, tourist attractions - each business is deemed non-essential and each have had struggles getting help from the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program.
There’s an idea to help these types of north country businesses. It’s an idea being pushed by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
The Clayton Opera House should be full of music, arts and people at this time of year. But this is an unusual year.
The opera house has still not been able to reopen and the Payroll Protection Program loan it got months ago is long gone.
“To be able to open our doors, we need funding or performing arts are going to go away,” said Julie Garnsey, Clayton Opera House executive director.
That’s something Senator Kirsten Gillibrand wants to prevent.
“These economic relief efforts like the Paycheck Protection Program clearly did not work for everybody,” said Gillibrand (D. - NY)>
She’s supporting the RESTART Act. It’s a relief program targeted specifically towards theaters, live events and hospitality - industries that have been neglected in previous COVID-19 relief programs.
“We all want to be able to go out to eat and see concerts again when it’s safe. We need restaurants and venues that we love to be there when it’s safe to come back,” said Gillibrand.
Mindy Carpenter and Joshua Eppley own an event venue in Sackets Harbor. They haven’t gotten any help thus far.
“There’s no PPP, we didn’t qualify because we’re not employees, we’re owners. We talked to a number of different banks, there was nothing for us,” said Eppley.
They say it’s nice to know lawmakers are finally turning their attention to struggling arts and entertainment businesses.
“I’m just thankful we’re getting recognition, we’re getting recognized that we’ve been left out and someone’s trying to do something about it,” said Carpenter.
If passed, the RESTART Act would offer six months of payroll, benefits, and fixed operating expenses for small businesses like Eppley Acres and the Clayton Opera House.
“The reality is that COVID is going to be with us for a long time and during that time, some businesses will not be able to operate at the scale they used to, if at all,” said Gillibrand.
Arts, hospitality and entertainment businesses may have been deemed non-essential, but those who work in those fields will tell you otherwise.
“It’s levity, it’s great entertainment. People need it, they need the arts in their life,” said Garnsey.
The RESTART Act is not a guarantee. At this point it has only been proposed and backed by around 30 senators.
However, Gillibrand says she’s confident it will be passed.
Business owners say the help can’t come soon enough.