NEW YORK (WKBW) — As restaurants, bars and hotels continue to feel the impacts of COVID-19 two New York lawmakers have proposed legislation to provide some relief.
Senator Diane Savino (D-Staten Island/Brooklyn) and Assemblyman Mike Cusick (D-Staten Island) have proposed a hospitality relief package that calls for:
- Passage of the business interruption bill, S8211/A10226, which will hold harmless businesses and nonprofits that currently hold business interruption insurance for losses sustained because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but for which no such coverage is currently being provided;
- The Superintendent of Financial Services to create a Hospitality Relief Fund, requiring all insurers that issue commercial general liability policies in New York to contribute to a fund to ensure the businesses they rely on are able to continue to operate;
- The creation of a temporary Hospitality Business Relief Insurance Credit for businesses with a CGL policy in 2020. As businesses did not operate for up to 75% of the year their insurance covered them, insurers faced no risk. Insurers should provide a credit back to businesses in an amount to be determined that reflects the dramatically reduced risk carried in 2020;
- Amnesty for struggling businesses from fines imposed by the State Liquor Authority;
- Providing commercial rent relief for businesses.
“We’ve seen bars and restaurants across the city and state be forced to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many more are struggling to find a way to keep the doors open as we enter the winter months. These businesses are not just places we enjoy a night out at, they employ hundreds of thousands of people and the products they purchase have an economic impact across the state. This package is a step towards making them whole and ensuring that they can continue to operate here in New York,” said Savino.
Savino said the fines would be waived for businesses unknowingly violating changes in COVID-19 restrictions
"There will still be a process by which they would have to apply, and again we’re not suggesting anybody that is willfully violating the rules that apply to their liquor licenses," Savino said.
She would like the SLA to voluntarily institute the amnesty program, but said the legislature does have the power to institute changes.
Holly Anderson is the incoming president of the Restaurant Association's Western New York Chapter and is in favor of the amnesty program.
“The local people, some people just didn’t know, and the other thing is some people were fined because of what the consumer, the guest were doing, which is really hard to control.”
Anderson is also in favor of this bill Savino wants passed as part of the relief package. It calls for insurance companies to provide business interruption insurance due to COVID-19, similar to how insurance companies cover damage from a hurricane.
Savino said the relief package would cost no money to taxpayers, and that insurance companies would contribute to the hospitality relief fund.
Anderson said rent relief is important, but right now restaurants are struggling with smaller things, such as paying their employees.
“The biggest thing is it doesn’t give us enough money to even stay open," she said. "It falls very short of what we really need to get through this pandemic with these closures."
She said restaurants need another round of PPP from the federal government, money that was helpful, but used up over the summer.
The announcement of this proposed legislation comes a day after new guidance was announced in regards to indoor dining in New York.
According to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, if after five days a region's hospitalization rate doesn't stabilize indoor dining will be closed or reduced if those steps have not already been taken.
NEW: If after 5 days a region's hospital rate has not stabilized, indoor dining will close or be reduced.— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) December 7, 2020
-In NYC, indoor dining would close entirely.
-In rest of the state, indoor dining would be reduced to 25% capacity.