Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the title of NYC Comptroller Brad Lander.
THE BRONX (PIX11) — Help never arrived, even though he submitted an application for one of the city’s small business emergency grants during COVID, MetroOptics owner John Bonizio claims.
“We got no city funding. I put that in on the very first day and never heard a word,” Bonizio said.
Bonizio is not surprised by the findings in a new audit by NYC Comptroller Brad Lander. The report shows that the Bronx got shortchanged when it came time for the city to dole out money in its financial assistance program for small businesses during the pandemic.
The borough was especially underserved when compared to Manhattan, which received close to 57 percent of the funds, while the Bronx got about 2 percent. Manhattan got most of the money despite making up less than half of the city’s small businesses.
“We have language barriers. We had cultural differences,” said Lisa Sorin, president of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce.
The comptroller’s office data shows less than 1,000 applications were submitted by Bronx businesses for loans and grants compared to more than 10,000 in Manhattan.
According to Sorin, Manhattan had more applications submitted and approved than other boroughs because those companies had the know-how and resources to navigate the process. Businesses in the Bronx were not prepared to submit complicated applications on short notice.
“The first grants that came out happened so fast that there wasn’t enough communication. By the time we got out to our businesses, the money was gone. Our Bronx was left out for a simple thing like a paper was missing. There was a signature missing,” said Sorin.
Sorin said the Bronx was at a disadvantage from the start. There are an estimated 27,000 small businesses in the Bronx and the vast majority are family and minority-owned microbusinesses.
While it’s too late to save businesses that fell through the cracks, Sorin hopes the city’s Department of Small Business Services will work on its outreach to ensure that disadvantaged communities get their fair share in future programs.
“When you are releasing something last-minute, and you are leaving it to those who may know the system better, we are going to lose out. It’s a rat race,” Sorin said.
PIX11 reached out to NYC Small Business Services for a comment on the audit, but they did not immediately respond.