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Deadline approaching for renters, small businesses to apply for safety net funds

Aid for small business owners and renters in Suffolk County is still available as growing coronavirus cases continue to disrupt the economy.

“With cases surging once again, we need to provide residents in need tangible assistance,” County Executive Steve Bellone said, announcing the program last month. “This new rent relief program coupled with financial aid to struggling small businesses will provide help to some of our most vulnerable residents.”

The two-part ‘Bringing Assistance for COVID-19 and Kickstarting Support to Operating Professionals’ or BACKSTOP program will provide nearly $600,000 in emergency rental assistance and distribute grants to around 150 small businesses.

Under the rent program, eligible applicants could receive a one-time payment to cover one month’s rent, with a maximum payment of $2,500.

Applicants are required to fill out and sign a certification form to verify their income and demonstrate how they were affected by the pandemic and must occupy legal permanent housing — hotels, motels and dorms are excluded — to qualify.

Renters must also meet income guidelines established by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and have a fully-executed lease that has been in effect for a minimum of one month with a term of at least one year.

Applications for the rental program are due Jan. 15 and awardees will be selected through a lottery process, officials said.

For small businesses, $1 million is up for grabs through federal Community Development Block Grant funding received by the county.

Businesses with up to 10 employees are eligible for a maximum of grant of $5,000 and businesses with 11 to 50 employees will be eligible for up to $10,000 in grant funding.

The program, designed to aid struggling businesses like gyms, hair and nail salons, restaurants and bars negatively impacted by the pandemic, is open to applicants in East Hampton, Riverhead, Smithtown, Southampton, Southold and Shelter Island, excluding some incorporated villages.

Businesses in Islip, Huntington, Babylon and Brookhaven are not eligible since they are not members of the Suffolk County CDBG Consortium, officials said.

The pre-application period to determine eligibility is open until Jan. 16. Applicants must then submit approved applications to a separate portal. County officials have not announced an opening date for that application, but estimate it will be within a week of the pre-application period closing. More information and applications for both the rental and small businesses assistance programs can be found on the county’s website.