By Julianne Mosher
With the changes in how customers shop and dine across the region, PSEG Long Island wanted to step in and help.
John Keating, manager of economic development with PSEGLI, said that the company began its Main Street Revitalization Program about two years ago with the goal to bring business back downtown. But because of the COVID-19 crisis, PSEGLI saw an opportunity to help out during the changing times.
“We saw a lot of areas were looking at outdoor dining and outdoor shopping,” Keating said. “It has become a lifeline for them to stay in business.”
The Chamber of Commerce Main Street Revitalization Award grants up to $5,000 to chambers and business improvement districts to help purchase durable goods that support outdoor commerce.
“It’s our small way to help businesses thrive,” Keating said.
To date, PSEGLI has paid or preapproved grants for 20 Chambers or BIDs in towns and villages across Long Island — from Sag Harbor to Great Neck — totaling nearly $100,000.
Keating said that when a chamber or BID is approved, the funds are based on a reimbursement process.
“We want to make sure the money goes to durable material that supports outdoor shopping,” he said. “Once approved, they can make the purchase, send us the receipts and then we reimburse them.”
And many of the local chambers have either applied or are considering it. The Town of Smithtown announced last week that the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce was awarded the grant and was then gifted new outdoor propane heaters — the first chamber to do so.
Diane Motherway, executive director of the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce, said that she was surprised to hear that they were the first to use the money for heat. Other recipients used the funds to purchase outdoor tables, chairs, umbrellas or planters, but Kings Park saw what was already implemented and decided to add to what shops have established outside.
“Some restaurants were set up already,” she said. “So, we were trying to think of ways to help since that was taken care of.”
That’s when they thought of the heaters, especially since Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) made an announcement Sept. 17 extending the temporary outdoor dining permit to Dec. 31.
“We’re trying to do our part in any way that we can,” Motherway said.
It was announced that the Nesconset Chamber of Commerce is also a recipient of the award and will be using the funds to gift outdoor heaters, as well.
“We’re trying to help businesses through their chambers,” Keating said. “It’s been a very positive experience because most chambers don’t have a lot of funds to work with — this was something that they could help make a difference.”
Keating added that 90 percent of the Long Island economy comes from small business, so the pandemic caused stress for small shops.
“Our end game is keeping more businesses surviving during the pandemic,” he said.