Hosted by the Queens Chamber of Commerce, the giveaway included free face masks, face shields and even thermometers for businesses on the commercial strip.
Salvatore Crifasi, president of the Middle Village Chamber of Commerce and a Queens Chamber board member, said the PPE can be used for employees and customers alike. The day before the distribution event, Crifasi walked up and down the avenue to hand out flyers to local stores.
“Everyone appreciates it,” he said. “We’re getting a good turnout.”
Crifasi, who began his own commercial and residential real estate firm in Middle Village in 1979, said businesses are struggling with more than just the COVID crisis. He noted that they’re also struggling with the challenges of online shopping.
The business leader is also worried about the restaurant industry, predicting that half of all restaurants in the area will not reopen. He called on government leaders to restart indoor dining.
“You can go to the gym, you can go bowling, you can demonstrate, but you can’t eat indoors in a restaurant?” Crifasi said. “It’s ridiculous. It’s hurting the businesses.”
As a member of the Board of Directors for the Queens Chamber, Crifasi said he’s telling other business owners to reach out to the chamber for help. He said owners need more resources like online classes and seminars to survive the pandemic.
“I made my money here,” Crifasi added, “and I feel like giving back to the neighborhood and the Queens community.”
Congresswoman Grace Meng attended the PPE distribution event and spoke to business owners as well. She said though New York City is no longer in the peak of the pandemic, businesses should be equipped with the proper PPE to feel safe enough to come back.
“I’m proud to work with the Queens Chamber to meet the businesses and meet people where they are, where the need is,” Meng said. “That’s why we’re doing this not only here in Middle Village, but around the district as well.”
The congresswaomn is a co-sponsor of the Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed To Survive (RESTAURANTS) Act, which would create a fund for food and drinking establishments that have suffered economic hardship due to the pandemic.
The bill would establish a $120 billion restaurant stabilization grant program, which would provide aid to cover the difference between revenues from 2019 and projected revenues through 2020. The maximum grant amount is $10 million.
Caterers would be included in the program, but not publicly traded restaurants or chains with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name. The fund also sets aside $60 million for traditionally marginalized or underrepresented communities, such as women, veteran and minority-owned enterprises.
The grants, which would be administered by the Treasury Department, could cover payroll, benefits, mortgage, rent, utilities, maintenance, supplies, debt obligations and other expenses deemed essential.
Meng said the legislation has many co-sponsors already and is bipartisan because “everyone has struggling small businesses and restaurants in their districts.”
The Queens lawmaker added that she hopes the RESTAURANTS Act will be included in the next version of the federal stimulus package, which she said is “way overdue.” She said though the House already passed a second package, she hopes the Senate will follow suit.
“I think the Senate needs to feel the urgency of what everyday constituents are feeling,” Meng said. “I hope that they understand how dire the situation is for so many people who literally can’t pay their rent or mortgage.”