Pictured Above: Outdoor dining this summer on Greenport’s Front Street.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced the launch Friday, Dec. 11 of Suffolk BACKSTOP — a new Covid-19 rental and small business assistance program for county residents and business owners facing hardships due to the pandemic, along with a Covid testing program for first responders.

The economic assistance program – Bringing Assistance for Covid-19 and Kickstarting Support to Operating Professionals (BACKSTOP) — will distribute nearly $600,000 in emergency rental assistance to residents and provide nearly 150 small businesses with grants up to $10,000.

Applications for the rental assistance program and for the Small Business Assistance Grant Program will open on December 17. 

“We are now nine months in to this pandemic, and with cases surging once again we need to provide residents in need tangible assistance,” said Suffolk County Executive Bellone. “This new rent relief program coupled with financial aid to struggling small businesses will provide help to some of our most vulnerable residents.” 

The rent program will provide a one-time rental assistance payment to eligible applicants in an amount up to 100 percent of one month’s rent, up to a maximum of $2,500. 

The applicant will be required to fill out and sign a self-certification form to verify their income and how they were affected by the pandemic. All applications are due on Jan. 15, 2021, and a lottery will be held to select awardees.

For more, click here.

In order to qualify, applicants must:

  • Be a Suffolk County resident who is currently occupying a legal permanent housing unit (no hotels, motels, or dorms) within one of the participating Consortium municipalities
  • Have a fully-executed lease that has been in effect for a minimum of one month at the time of application, and has a term of at least one year
  • Have a Total Household Income within the HUD Guidelines (see below), which has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Meet the 2020 Income Guidelines (see below)

The county is also launching its own Covid-19 Small Business Assistance Grant Program.

With $1 million available of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding, the county will provide nearly 150 small businesses with a grant of up to $10,000, based on their number of full-time employees.

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

The program is designed to assist struggling small businesses that have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Eligible businesses include gyms, hair salons and barber shops, nail salons, restaurants, bars and taverns. 

Businesses must be located within one of the participating Consortium municipalities to be eligible for funding pursuant to federal requirements and can apply to the grant program starting on December 17.

More eligibility details can be found here

Given the finite resources dedicated to these two programs, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is urging Washington to pass a comprehensive disaster assistance package that will not only protect essential workers and first responders, but provide relief to families in crisis and small businesses that are struggling to survive.

Suffolk also unveiled a county-wide first responder Covid-19 testing plan on Friday, Dec. 11 that will allow active local fire service, emergency medical service providers, and local law enforcement to receive a rapid test on weekends throughout the month of December. 

Eligible first responders are able to sign up for an appointment through a reservation-based mobile system on the County’s Rave Mobile Safety Platform.

“While we await the arrival of a vaccine, we know that testing is one of our most valuable tools in combating this virus,” said Mr. Bellone. “As we work to increase access to testing across the board, this new testing program for first responders will allow us to continue to protect all those who are on the frontlines everyday working to keep our communities safe.”

The Suffolk County Departments of Fire Rescue and Emergency Services (FRES), Department of Health Services and Division of Emergency Medical Services will conduct rapid testing at various locations throughout the county, including in the towns of Brookhaven, Riverhead, Babylon, Islip, Smithtown, and Huntington, on the following dates. Testing site locations and times will be provided to first responders upon the confirmation of their appointments: 

  • Saturday, December 19
  • Sunday, December 20
  • Saturday, December 26
  • Sunday, December 27 

The first responder testing initiative is available for active fire and EMS providers, as well as local law enforcement agencies. The county will also soon launch an employee testing program, which will include county law enforcement. Those who suspect that they have recently been exposed to, or are experiencing Covid-19 symptoms will receive priority.

Eligible first responders will receive a mobile survey via text message from Suffolk County FRES to advise them to fill out information related to pre-registration and to select an allotted testing date and time. 

Appointments are required and must be made through the reservation-based system. No walk-ins will be permitted. The county will administer 100 tests per day for the duration of the testing.

Suffolk County first responders who have any questions or have not yet received the survey related to a reservation are encouraged to contact Joel Vetter at joel.vetter@suffolkcountyny.gov with the subject line of “FDEMS Rapid COVID Testing” or 631.852.4856.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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