County extends deadline for small business grants

Monroe County has extended the deadline for applications for Fast Forward Monroe 2.0 to Oct. 29, 2021.

Fast Forward Monroe 2.0 is a program of grants for small businesses that is funded with an additional $20 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act money, which must be distributed by the end of this year.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our local economy and it’s critical we support them as we continue to deal with the ongoing pandemic,” said Monroe County Executive Adam Bello in a statement. “That’s why I launched the Fast Forward Monroe Small Business Grant Program last year. Through no fault of their own, many small businesses have not yet fully recovered from COVID-related economic hardships. Fast Forward 2.0 helps ensure our small businesses have the support they need to weather these uncertain times. I’d like to thank Congressman Joe Morelle, Sen. Charles Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for their help in securing CARES Act funding for this program.”

Since the second phase of Fast Forward Monroe launched on Sept. 8, 921 small businesses have applied for help. Money will be disbursed to eligible businesses by the end of the year.

Monroe County collaborated with community organizations including the Urban League of Rochester, PathStone Enterprise Center and the Ibero-American Action League to make the program more accessible by providing business owners with comprehensive application help and support, including assistance for limited English proficient individuals.

The county Department of Planning and Development hired additional employees to process applications.

The initial Fast Forward program, launched in October 2020, helped more than 1,500 local small businesses survive the pandemic with $22 million of funds from the CARES Act.

Eligible businesses can receive grants of either $10,000, $15,000 or $20,000 depending on the number of full-time employees. The money can be used for rent, payroll, operating expenditures or COVID-related business expenses and other funding shortfalls.

Businesses which received funds in the first round of the program are still eligible to receive funds through Fast Forward Monroe 2.0. Businesses that did not receive funding in the first version of the program will be given priority under Fast Forward 2.0.

To apply, visit

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Child care providers eligible for $90 million in grants

Nearly $90 million has been made available in federal CARES Act funding to assist child care providers through NY Forward grants as they adjust their programs during the COVID-19 crisis. The funding is in addition to $30 million made available in the spring and $48.3 million recently awarded to assist child care providers with reopening or restructuring their physical plans to meet social distancing requirements.

“Child care is essential to getting people back to work and continuing our New York Forward economic reopening,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement this week. “Every working parent deserves the peace of mind that goes with having a quality child care program where their child can grow and learn in a space that has been adapted to meet the health and safety requirements of this extraordinary time.”

The state Office of Children and Family Services administered the federal CARES Act grants. Child Care Resource and Referral agencies statewide will process payments to providers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequalities that already existed in our society, particularly among working women, and nowhere is that more present than with child care,” Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said. “As co-chair of the Child Care Availability Task Force, I have heard from child care providers throughout our state about how important this funding is as they continue to operate safely with adequate social distancing to keep both staff and children safe. In order to build back our economy better and more inclusive than ever before, we must reduce the stress and cost burden of child care and continue the call for additional federal funding that is critical for New York’s working families and providers.”

Some $20 million of the $88.6 million in grant funding will support child care scholarships for children of essential workers. That includes first responders such as health care providers, pharmaceutical staff, law enforcement, firefighters, food delivery workers, grocery store employees and others. Child care costs will be covered for families of essential workers whose income is less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level. The funding will support 5,400 children in child care for 14 weeks.

An additional $20 million will be made available for rental assistance for school-based child care programs that have been displaced by the pandemic. It will support 2,300 school-age child care programs with $2,000 in monthly rental assistance for four months.

Another $20 million will support grants for closed child care programs to reopen or restructure under new guidelines for social distancing. The remaining $28.6 million will provide grants for child care providers to pay for half of the cost, up to $6,000, to open a new classroom. Temporary funds would be phased out in the second and third months as parents enroll more children in child care.

Child care providers can apply for funding online.

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Airport to receive funding for safety upgrades

Greater Rochester International Airport is slated to receive nearly $5.7 million in federal funding for improvements.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded the airport, which soon will be known as Frederick Douglass – Greater Rochester International Airport, $5.68 million in Federal Aviation Administration funds to be used to extend a taxiway and install runway guard lights, helping to meet the operational and safety needs of the airport.

“Air travel to and from Rochester International is vital to the connectivity and success of the regional economy, which is why, as the region rebuilds after the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that we provide the funding necessary to keep the airports safe and efficient,” said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer in a statement. “I’m proud to deliver this funding and will continue to fight to make sure the whole Rochester-Finger Lakes region has the help it needs to revive and thrive.”

Rochester’s airport is the fifth-busiest in the state of New York and home to the 642nd Aviation Support Battalion. A portion of the newest funding comes from FAA CARES Act grants.

“Investing in airport infrastructure is vital to promoting economic development in our communities,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. “This funding will help the Greater Rochester International Airport enhance safety for people flying in and out of Rochester.”

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Chambers of commerce seeking additional funding for arts and humanities

The Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives is seeking additional funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act for nonprofits that serve the arts and humanities. Members of ACCE include the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce Inc. and Visit Rochester Inc.

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, ACCE contends that while the CARES Act provided much-needed relief to many of the group’s 205 chamber members, critical gaps remain.

ACCE notes that an American Alliance of Museums survey found that nearly one-third of museums surveyed fear possible permanent closures as soon as this fall and that Americans for the Arts estimates the total economic impact on arts and culture organizations to be $9.1 billion in losses to date, with an additional $10.4 billion in event-related spending losses by arts consumers at local businesses like restaurants and retail. More than 327 million arts visitors have been lost since the start of the COVID-19 crisis.

ACCE is requesting federal funding of “at least” $6 billion for the Institute of Museums and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities to provide direct economic relief for nonprofit museums, aquariums, zoos and performing arts centers.

The chambers also are asking that the Federal Reserve be required to broaden its nonprofit lending facility under the Main Street Lending Program to specifically benefit mid-size nonprofits to those with more than 500 employees, with loan forgiveness and option.

ACCE has asked to increase and extend the Paycheck Protection Program and loan forgiveness provisions in the CARES Act by enabling a second round of funding for all nonprofits including those in the arts with more than 500 staffers.

Finally, ACCE is seeking an expansion of the universal charitable deduction provision by enacting the provisions of a bill to increase the amount to one-third of the standard deduction, while also allowing all taxpayers to claim the deduction on their 2019 and 2020 returns. The letter also asks for an extension of the charitable deduction provided by the CARES Act through 2021.

“Collectively, the nation’s performing arts centers, museums, zoos and aquariums are losing nearly $33 million a day due to closures and are in desperate need of significant federal support to continue to employ many thousands of people, rebuild our nation’s tourism industry and simply survive the months to come,” the letter states. “As cash-based businesses, their economic stability depends on revenue generated from visitors.”

To date, the letter says, more than 62,000 employees have been laid off, nearly 50,000 furloughed and an additional 8,000 jobs remain unfilled due to hiring freezes in the arts and culture sector.

“Over and above losses in earned revenue and unremitted expenses, these organizations are projecting a decline in charitable contributions as donors reassess their capacity to give,” according to the letter.

ACCE suggests that the request is the “minimum required support mechanisms” to ensure that Americans still have their arts and culture institutions.

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RGRTA receives federal CARES funding

Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority is slated to receive $9.2 million in federal funding to help ensure the organization can continue offering essential public transportation during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Our dedicated regional transit workers have played an integral role in making sure our community continues to run smoothly during an otherwise tumultuous period,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Morelle, D-Irondequoit, in a statement. “I’m proud to have helped pass the CARES Act, and prouder still to see these funds go directly to Rochester. Ensuring RGRTA has the means to continue to aid this public health emergency will ease the burden on families and essential workers across our region, and help our community continue to heal.”

The funding was allocated by the Federal Transit Administration through the CARES Act and also will encourage revitalization projects and support fixed-route, paratransit and route deviation services.

“This CARES Act funding will ensure that RGRTA can continue providing crucial public transportation services for riders who are relying on safe and sanitary transit during the pandemic,” said U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. “This federal funding will offset the devastating financial impacts of COVID-19 on transit operations throughout the region and allow Rochester area counties to keep the RGRTA system clean, safe, timely and efficient for riders.”

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Local arts organizations receive CARES Act grants

Six area arts establishments have been awarded $10,000 each in CARES Act funding to support staff salaries, fees for artists or contractual personnel and facilities costs.

A total of $490,000 was awarded to 49 arts organizations in nine New York State regions and 23 counties. The New York State Council on the Arts National Endowment for the Arts CARES grants will support a broad constituency across New York, including a wide range of organizations that reach primarily underserved areas, including communities with ethnically diverse and immigrant populations, those that are geographically remote and those with limited economic resources.

In the Finger Lakes region, the following agencies have been awarded grants:
• Borinquen Dance Theatre
• Community Design Center Rochester
• Bristol Valley Theater
• Ganondagan
• PUSH Physical Theatre
• Writers & Books

“The arts and culture are critical to the health of our communities, our state and our country, and will be vital to our recovery,” said NYSCA Executive Director Mara Manus. “Throughout the unprecedented challenges of the past months, our state’s cultural sector has shown incredible ingenuity and resilience. As we begin to navigate reopening, NYSCA is committed to supporting New York’s vibrant arts community that provides important educational, civic and economic opportunities across the state.”

NYSCA CARES grant recipients each had annual budgets of $1.5 million or less; 53 percent had budgets of $500,000 or less. Officials noted that arts and culture contribute $120 billion annually to New York’s economy and account for 460,000 jobs.

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Rural hospitals, health systems receive CARES funding

More than $264 million in federal funding has been made for rural hospitals, health systems and community health centers across New York, including several in the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region.

U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand on Friday said the funding, allocated by Health and Human Services, would be used to combat COVID-19 in rural areas. Schumer previously had announced more than $1.4 billion in the second round of CARES Act hospital funding.

“This funding is good news for our rural hospitals and health centers throughout Upstate New York that have been fighting to save lives and simultaneously struggling to make ends meet during the ongoing public health crisis. Our rural Upstate hospitals and providers have been New York’s heroes in the battle against COVID-19 and these critical dollars will help keep the fight against the virus going strong,” Schumer said in a statement. “I will continue to fight tirelessly to make sure New York’s world-class health care workforce and our hospitals get all the federal support they need to beat back this pandemic and get on the road to recovery.”

Funding for local hospitals and health systems include:
 Geneva General Hospital/Finger Lakes Health, $5.4 million
 Jones Memorial Hospital/University of Rochester Medicine, $3.84 million
 Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital/Finger Lakes Health, $3.57 million
 St. James Hospital/UR Medicine, $3.67 million
 Newark-Wayne Community Hospital/Rochester Regional Health, $5.04 million
 Nicholas H. Noyes Memorial Hospital/UR Medicine, $4.19 million
 Orleans Community Health, $3.49 million
 United Memorial Medical Center/RRH, $5.06 million

“Even before this pandemic rural health care providers were struggling to stay afloat and it’s critical that they have immediate access to capital, grant and loan programs as they combat COVID-19 in New York’s most affected areas,” Gillibrand said. “Rural hospitals, clinics and community health centers provide a wide range of services to some of our most vulnerable populations and they ensure every community has access to quality health care, especially in times of public health emergencies. I will continue to fight for the resources needed to support our rural hospitals and CHCs providing this essential care.”

According to HHS, recipients of the $10 billion rural distribution can include rural acute care general hospitals and Critical Access Hospitals, Rural Health Clinics and Community Health Centers located in rural areas.

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Transit system gets $36 million in federal funding

Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority is slated to receive $36.3 million in federal funding allocated by the Federal Transit Administration as part of the CARES Act.

“As upstate communities like the Rochester Finger Lakes region battle the coronavirus pandemic, it’s imperative that they get all the federal tools they need to respond and recover,” said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer in a statement this week. “This federal funding will offset the devastating financial impacts of COVID-19 on transit operations throughout the region and allow the Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority to recover — and help stave off pressure for fare hikes.”

In mid-March, just ahead of the state’s PAUSE, RGRTA waived all bus fares and enacted a new procedure for entering and exiting buses. The waiving of fares was meant to make critical travel to work or grocery stores easier, while also limiting the time spent at the closest point of contact between bus operators and customers, officials said at the time.

“Every day the dedicated men and women of our transportation industry do critically important work to ensure our community continues to run during this crisis, and we are eternally grateful for all that they do,” said U.S. Rep. Joseph Morelle. “It’s vital that our transit systems have the tools and resources they need to operate fully and continue getting frontline workers to their jobs every day.”

RGRTA, which marked its 50th anniversary last year, was scheduled to implement this summer Reimagine RTS, its new routing system that was several years in the making. That implementation has been put on hold until the pandemic has eased.

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Child care scholarships available for essential workers

Parents who are on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic have some relief, with scholarships for free child care.

The Child Care Council Inc. said Friday that during the COVID-19 crisis, income-eligible essential workers in Monroe, Livingston and Wayne counties can apply for full scholarships through the agency.

To qualify, families of eligible workers must have an adjusted gross income at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or $78,600 for a family of four. Essential workers using a licensed or registered child care provider will receive a scholarship for the cost of care while New York state is on PAUSE, as long as the funds to support it are available.

The funding for essential workers comes to the state from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which has provided the state with $163.6 million in emergency relief to the child care system. New York state is using a portion of this funding to provide free child care for eligible essential workers.

“Child Care Council applauds Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his administration for developing a plan to provide child care to essential workers at no cost,” said Barbara-Ann Mattle, CEO of the Child Care Council. “Access to affordable, quality child care is a barrier for working parents during the best of times, and even more so during this crisis. The CARES Child Care Scholarship will ensure that children of the essential workforce are protected and cared for as they continue to serve the community.”

Parents can contact the Child Care Council to apply. Council staff will reach out to applicants within one to two business days to gather more information and help identify a participating child care program or work with their current registered or licensed child care provider. The council will use the gathered information to establish that they are an essential employee, enroll them in the CARES Child Care Scholarship and ensure that the child care program gets paid.

Cornell university’s Agricultural Workforce Development program also suggested parents look into local YMCA daycare programs, some of which have expanded at this time. 

While the Agri-Business Child Development program of the NYS Federation of Growers’ and Processors’ Associations normally operates daycare centers for farmworkers and food processors, those programs are currently closed until May 1. Cornell suggested, however, that families check in with the centers because they’re considering a change. ABCD operates at least five daycare centers in the Rochester/Finger Lakes area. 

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Includes reporting by Diana Louise Carter. [email protected]/ (585) 363-7275