Press Conference Video: https://youtu.be/1dRREafn3W4
Holbrook, NY On Monday, New York State Assemblyman Doug Smith and his COVID-19 Emergency Small Business Task Force comprised of area Chamber of Commerce Presidents and local businesses was joined by Long Island state, county, and town elected officials in calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to restore local control to the COVID-19 response.
At the press conference, officials pointed out that rules being issued via a series of Executive Orders from Governor Cuomo were:
- Arbitrary and capricious with many rules not based in science such as a rule that restaurants cannot serve alcohol unless customers also order food other than chicken wings, and that a mandatory 14-day quarantine was not imposed for artists visiting New York City for the Video Music Awards;
- Selective enforcement that seemed to target certain downtown communities and businesses where state officials reportedly would visit upwards of 3 and 4 times per day for compliance checks;
- Dozens of business owners and operators, at the brink of closure due to COVID-19, have expressed that they are afraid to speak out about these rules as they are fearful of retribution from New York State government, which could shut them down and prevent them from being able to provide for their families.
Assemblyman Doug Smith said, Over the last several months, small businesses in our community have sacrificed so much to help combat this deadly pandemic. Now instead of being assisted for their efforts, they are being overwhelmed by ambiguous rules issued by Governor Cuomo that change daily, making it even harder to rebuild and reopen. On top of that, state enforcers seem determined to close our state budget gap one $1,000 fine at a time, targeting some Main Street businesses 3 or 4 times per day. This harassment has created a situation where dozens of businesses in our community are fearful to even speak out and ask for help. For this reason, I join my colleagues calling for Governor Cuomo to immediately restore local control to our counties and towns, the government closest to the people.
Suffolk Legislator Anthony Piccirillo added, While small business is being crushed by arbitrary regulations; somehow big box stores are immune. It is time to return local control and let our business operate in a safe and effective manner.
Holbrook Chamber of Commerce President Rick Ammirati said, Since the start of this pandemic there has been no outreach from the Governors office to the Chambers of Commerce or even our local officials. Enforcement issues and complaints are legitimate; however, the shutdown is decimating our local small businesses. Albany should be fully responsive to its citizens. The Holbrook Chamber as a member of this Task Force is seeking to establish a trusted & productive conduit between state and local government to assist our business community both as we reopen and for the future. It is our vision to see the state recognize the value and tremendous intel both the chambers and our local town & county government can provide with respect to making critical operating decisions during the pandemic advisory period.
Assemblyman Joe DeStefano stated, Selective enforcement of the governors COVID rules are putting local merchants out of business. While we all want to stay safe and healthy and are taking all the right precautions to protect ourselves and our families, bars, restaurants, and other businesses are being harassed to the point of ridiculousness. People are afraid to speak out over the abuse for fear of reprisal which, in some cases, has amounted to the state Liquor Authority visiting establishments multiple times even after they have been given the green light to reopen. The governor needs to allow local control back into the process and let local businesses begin the process of recovery.
Suffolk County Legislator and Minority Leader Tom Cilmi said, Local businesses, their owners and their employees have been irreparably impacted by COVID-related shutdowns and restrictions. Now, as they struggle to survive, investing money they dont have, to comply with the States reopening guidance, they too often find themselves victimized again by an overzealous, unrelenting enforcement bureaucracy which seems to be more concerned with generating revenue from fines than they are with assisting business owners desperate to stay afloat. We are calling on the Governor to stand down and let local officials work with our businesses to ensure sensible compliance without putting additional nails in the coffin of our local economy.
Brookhaven Town Councilman Neil Foley added, Our local businesses complied with the Governors lockdown during NY PAUSE for the health greater good of our residents. Doing so cost them and their employees financially, with some forced into bankruptcy. We need to help these businesses to succeed, to spur our local economy and keep our neighbors working. Selective enforcement and unfairly targeting of businesses are hurting Main Street. We need rules to keep everyone healthy and maintain the gains we have made in the battle against COVID. But draconian actions against mom and pop businesses hurts everyone, especially those who sacrificed so much for the rest of us.
Ronkonkoma Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Hyms said, Due to the COVID-19 regulations and restrictions imposed by New York State, our local Chamber businesses are experiencing an economic hardship. This has resulted in a number of businesses closing for good, high unemployment numbers and a substantial loss of tax revenue to Suffolk County and the local towns.
Middle Country Chamber of Commerce President Lenore Paprocky closed by saying, The Governor has continuously issued arbitrary rules that have no basis in science and that impact everyone. The business owners in our community have told me they are fearful of retribution if they speak out against the Governors re-opening guidelines and rules. This is unacceptable and we need to take matters into our own hands and make decisions based on Local Control Now.