No recovery without trade groups, which need support

Making the cut: Whether facilitating grand openings or slicing through red tape, the Hauppauge Industrial Association of Long Island is a constant friend to small business -- and requires federal support to assist with the regional COVID-19 economic recovery, according to President Terri Alessi-Miceli.

We generally think of COVID-19’s devastation in terms of its human toll and its economic toll.

Indeed, the pandemic is registering a terrible impact on the health of many Long Islanders. And our region’s healthcare sector is battling valiantly to save lives and minimize the medical effects of this crisis.

At the same time, the pandemic is causing massive disruption throughout the Long Island economy. Thousands of regional businesses have closed and some 260,000 Nassau and Suffolk county residents filed unemployment claims in April.

Primarily through the new Paycheck Protection Program, and also through the Economic Injury Disaster Loans, Congress and the White House mobilized rapidly to provide emergency loans to help stabilize the U.S. economy amid this new recession.

The first two rounds of PPP funding alone are providing some $660 billion in emergency financing to employers. But something important is missing.

Terri Alessi-Miceli: Help us help you.

Amid their understandable haste to set these emergency initiatives into motion, the recovery strategy suffers from a gaping omission that further damages America’s regional economies: The strategy omits nonprofit business associations, trade groups and chambers of commerce from the employer categories eligible for PPP and EIDL aid.

These 501(c)(6) organizations – entities like ours – boost and nurture local economic development. Around the country, these associations promote job growth; provide education and professional development for America’s workforce; create product and safety standards; advance professional standards within numerous sectors; and organize community assistance programs after catastrophic events such as the current pandemic.

We bring the community together to confront shared challenges and promote local economic development.

Locally, simply put, we keep Long Island’s economy churning – and businesses need our help now more than ever.

For example, HIA-LI mobilizes our 1,000 member companies to advocate for economic development. We also promote the growth of the Long Island Innovation Park at Hauppauge, the 1,400-acre business complex whose 55,000-person workforce delivers $13 billion in annual output.

For Long Island’s economy to fully recover, organizations like ours must remain viable and vibrant. This will enable us to maximize our strategic role in staging our region’s economic renaissance.

Many associations that were financially solvent before the pandemic have now curtailed face-to-face meetings and conventions. Associations nationwide are losing previously steady sources of revenue from membership dues, advertising, sponsorships and fundraising.

Like the thousands of small businesses we serve, organizations like ours face serious financial challenges. We’re struggling to cover our own payroll, rent and other costs. But if 501(c)(6) organizations become disabled, it’ll just become harder for the hard-hit Main Street economy to stage the turnaround we’re going to need.

These incubators of growth and innovation must remain strong. Otherwise, we’ll face serious delays in bringing our economy back to life.

Happily, the entire Long Island delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives has endorsed an appropriate fix that would fill this gap in future rounds of emergency aid. We’re particularly grateful to U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY 1) for taking the lead. And we’ve been given assurance that Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) will follow suit.

Local nonprofits like ours promote small businesses. We’re poised to help build back our local economy. To do so, however, our own organizations also need the resources to bounce back and thrive.

Terri Alessi-Miceli is president and CEO of the Hauppauge Industrial Association of Long Island.