State offers lease workout assistance to small businesses

New York’s small businesses have a new program to help negotiate lease workout agreements.

The state earlier this month launched the New York Forward Small Business Lease Assistance Partnership in response to the economic impact of COVID-19. The program will provide small businesses and their landlords with informational resources and pro bono assistance to help both parties reach mutually-beneficial lease workout agreements. The service is available to all small businesses and landlords statewide.

Throughout the next year, the partnership has the capacity to serve thousands of small businesses, officials said.

“Small businesses are the backbone of any strong economy and it is critical that we work to find ways to support them during these difficult times,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the economy has been nothing short of devastating, and through partnerships such as this we can help to alleviate the burdens many business owners are facing. While a moratorium on commercial evictions is currently in place, this new public-private partnership will help provide an additional level of stability for small businesses and ensure they are able to play a role in helping build New York’s economy back better than before.”

Empire State Development will partner with the state Bar Association and Start Small Think Big, a New York-based nonprofit dedicated to supporting small, under-resourced entrepreneurs with high-quality professional services. Start Small will offer pro bono legal services from its network of more than 1,000 attorneys to commercial tenants and landlords looking for lease amendments to cope with the impacts of the pandemic. The state Bar Association will support the recruitment and training of additional volunteer attorneys.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has unfortunately created new and unforeseen economic challenges for small business owners and landlords across the state. Working together with Start Small Think Big and the New York State Bar Association to establish this partnership, our goal is to help commercial tenants and landlords reach mutually-beneficial agreements by engaging in productive discussions and taking advantage of the free legal assistance provided through this program,” said ESD Acting Commissioner and President and CEO-designate Eric Gertler.

The Small Business Lease Assistance Partnership website includes information on the lease renegotiation process and details the different types of lease workouts available to help small businesses cope with the financial impacts of COVID-19. Those interested in pro bono assistance to initiate a lease renegotiation are encouraged to review and complete the partnership’s intake form. After completing the form, each small business will receive an email detailing an estimated timeline for placement with a volunteer attorney. Once matched, the volunteer attorney will email the applicant to schedule an appointment.

“We are excited to partner with New York State and the New York Bar Association to help small businesses during this unprecedented time. Start Small Think Big helps small business owners grow and sustain their businesses through free legal, financial planning, and marketing services. We support a diverse network of entrepreneurs, including those who are of color, women, members of disadvantaged groups, and/or low-income by connecting them to lawyers and other high-quality professionals volunteering their time to provide free one-to-one support and the expertise needed to solve their businesses’ legal, financial and marketing issues,” Start Small Legal Program Director Alex Stepick said.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer