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Schumer Visits City To Discuss American Rescue Plan

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York and Senate majority leader, speaks at the National Comedy Center in Jamestown on Monday. Submitted photo

Sen. Charles Schumer doesn’t get to the former Erie-Lackawanna Railroad Station often — but when he visits the senator usually bears good news.

On Monday, Schumer visited the National Comedy Center to tout the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden in March. The setting was appropriate, Schumer said, because one of the things he worked to include in the American Rescue Plan is help for small venues that can receive part of $1.25 billion in federal money.

“It’s good to be back,” Schumer said. “This is actually my first time in Jamestown and in Chautauqua County as majority leader of the United States Senate. I’m going to stay just as vigilant on local issues as I always have. I have a little more clout as majority leader. I’ll use that for Jamestown, for Chautauqua County, for the whole Southern Tier and Western New York. I’m never going to forget. I’m going to continue doing my 62 county tour. I did it last year even though there was COVID. This is my 23rd year doing it. I’ve been to every county every year for 23 years. Ten years ago I was here talking about the importance of revitalizing the train station. Now look what it’s become. It’s been a decade-long project for me and the people of the county. It’s been a decade-long project for me — the train station, the comedy center and everything else to help revitalize our downtown here in Jamestown.”

An extension of that decade of work a provision Schumer fought to have included in the American Rescue Plan that allows the Save Our Stages program to work more seamlessly with the Payroll Protection Program. The Save Our Stages provision included an additional $1.25 billion for independent live venues, performing arts organizations, independent movie theaters and cultural institutions and allows venues to access a PPP loan and a Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, deducting the PPP loan amount from the grant amount. Schumer said the additional funding and technical fix would be a lifeline for New York’s independent venues, hard-hit by the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Previously, a venue had to choose between getting a PPP loan or a Save Our Stages grant. The application process for the $16.25 billion program begins this week on Thursday, April 8.

The federal Small Business Administration also released an updated PPP application that now allows venues to apply for a PPP loan as well as a Save Our Stages grant, as Schumer intended with the fix included in the recent COVID bill.

Mayor Eddie Sundquist speaks about what Jamestown may do with almost $30 million the city will receive from the American Rescue Plan. P-J photo by John Whittaker

“Particularly here, I want to talk about a subject near and dear to my heart, the National Comedy Center and the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts, Chautauqua Institution and so many other organizations across the county are getting some help,” Schumer said. “The help for our independent venues, our live venues, our arts institutions, that are lifeblood here. As certain industries have left we have found there are new kinds of industries that create jobs and bring people here and help people want to stay here and live here. And the arts is at the top of the list.”

Schumer said the American Rescue Plan brings about $100 billion into New York through stimulus checks for state residents, aid for vaccine distribution, pension relief, expanded Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, new rental assistance, SNAP benefits, money for state and local government and a local restaurants fund.

More than an estimated 58,000 households in Chautauqua County will receive approximately $146 million, and an estimated 35,000 households in Cattaraugus County will receive approximately $87 million. As part of the deal, more than $23.8 billion in state and local aid will be going to New York, with more than $75 million going directly to the Chautauqua region – including $29.87 million for the city of Jamestown, $11.6 million for the city of Dunkirk and over $24.6 million for Chautauqua County. New York state government will receive more than $12 billion.

“We got the state enough money so that they don’t have a deficit,” Schumer said. “So when the state government is giving any of you money don’t let them tell you they have a budget shortfall. They don’t. They have money. The budget deficit was $5 billion this year, $10 billion next year — we got them a total of $23 billion.”

Mayor Eddie Sundquist called the American Rescue Plan an essential help for the city as it helps businesses reopen — but Sundquist said the $30 million will do more than simply help rebound from COVID-19. Money can be used for capital needs, replacing aging infrastructure and tourism promotions to bring travelers to Jamestown. Returning to one of his campaign themes, Sundquist said broadband internet is one program he wants to include in the city’s use of the federal stimulus money.

“One of the most consequential pieces of legislation for local governments ever,” Sundquist said. “The city is currently formulating a plan to use this unprecedented sum to give economic relief to our hardest-hit businesses and cultural institutions and invest in economic development to ensure that Jamestown comes out of this pandemic the strongest it’s ever been. … It is our hope that we will be able to create a city broadband network ensuring every home and business in Jamestown has a low-cost, high-speed internet and a free lifetime connection available to every resident of the city.”

Mark Geise, deputy county executive for economic development and chief executive officer of the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency, discussed how quickly Chautauqua County has moved to get previous allocations of federal and state help out to the business community during COVID-19. All of the money the county has received is expected to be lent out by the end of April.

Geise said the new round of federal money will be used to help the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau with marketing to bring tourists back to the area and working with the region’s internet providers to bring high-speed internet to rural areas in the county.

“With this new round of funding certainly infrastructure, broadband, water, sewer is so important to us and really every municipality in the county to have development ready sites,” Geise said. “We can’t have development ready sites without the appropriate infrastructure.”

For Todd Tranum, Schumer’s visiting the National Comedy Center was a reminder of the momentum Chautauqua County was building before the pandemic struck. In short order last year, manufacturing businesses were holding their own, the county’s health care sector was expanding, Fredonia won the Small Business Revolution, the National Comedy Center was named the Best New Museum in the Country by USA Today and in July the Chautauqua Institution was named by USA Today as having the best small-town cultural scene in the United States.

Money for restaurants, another round of Payroll Protection Program funding, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan are all key programs to help get businesses back on their feet as the pandemic drags on.

“So we’re eager to get back to winning,” Tranum said. “We’re on a winning streak, Senator, and once again I think we’re in a place to harvest that momentum through the support you’ve been able to deliver through our national government. Our businesses are resilient. Many have innovated. They’ve persevered through this last year. However sometimes that just is not enough. Support through the American Rescue Plan Act is going to be critically important toward regaining our economic momentum.”

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