A Community Story

May 11, 2020

Community organizing at its finest! When Bridget Gibbons, Director of the Westchester County Economic Development Office, put out a general volunteer request for support with helping small business owners navigate the SBA COVID-19 lending applications, she was very gratified with the response. Over 400 people across the county signed-up within a week.

“This shows how generous, open-minded, and community-spirited the residents of Westchester are. They want to do everything they can to make a difference,” says Bridget.

Volunteers will help small business owners one-on-one answer questions regarding the US CARES Act, Paycheck Protection Program, application processes, and preparing documentation. In the virtual training on Tuesday, Bridget walked volunteers through the applications and answered dozens of questions.

The idea for the volunteer program came to Bridget after she reviewed the 700+ responses of a county-wide survey her team created— at County Executive George Latimer’s direction—to understand the most pressing needs of small business owners. Unsurprisingly, 87 percent of small businesses in Westchester County reported they needed immediate financial assistance and cash flow.

And though, as of today, PPP lending has paused, many lenders are hopeful additional allocations will become available soon. Bridget encourages small business owners to get ready to apply for the PPP as quickly as possible because, as we have seen, the lending dollars are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Secondly, she encourages entrepreneurs to adapt their businesses to e-commerce.

“None of us anticipated this moment. But in the case COVID-19 resurfaces in the next six to twelve months, pivoting for e-commerce is crucial,” says Bridget.

Small business owners can register for one-on-one assistance via Volunteer New York and the offering called “Small Business Owners Sign Up Here for Assistance with SBA Applications.” Stay tuned for more to come from the Westchester County Economic Development Office as they launch a business recovery plan program with incubator Element 46. We will share more about this opportunity next week.