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Financial Assistance Will Include Grants and Low Interest Loans to Make Connections Affordable

Suffolk County Legislator Rudy Sunderman today proposed a program designed to make connection to the proposed Forge River Watershed Sewer District affordable for small businesses. The Forge River Small Business Assistance Program would provide grant funding to reduce the cost of connecting to the sewer system and low interest financing to allow participants to pay the remaining cost over time, further reducing out of pocket costs for small business owners. Sunderman said he plans to introduce legislation authorizing the program later this week.

Over the past few weeks, planning discussions involving the County’s Department of Economic Development and Planning, local financial institutions, and not for profits have advanced to the point that the concept can be discussed publicly, Sunderman said.  The proposal comes a week before local residents will go to the polls to vote on the proposed creation of the Forge River Sewer District, which would be constructed entirely with state and federal grant funding as part of the Suffolk County Coastal Resiliency Initiative (SCCRI). The SCCRI project provides funding to connect homes, but not businesses, Sunderman noted.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our communities, but for many business owners, the out of pocket cost required to connect to the new sewer system would be a significant obstacle,” said Legislator Sunderman. “That’s why my office has been working with County Executive Bellone’s water quality team, the Department of Economic Development and Planning, and our local state officials to develop a program to help make connections more affordable small business owners.”

“While we are still busy finalizing the details, and will look forward to making a more formal announcement when they are completed, we have made enough progress in the planning process that we are comfortable in letting the small business community know that the program is coming together,” said Sunderman. “More importantly, we are making a commitment to the small business community, and I will submit legislation this week to authorize the program.”

Modeled in part after a grant and loan program established by the County to assist homeowners who choose to upgrade their septic systems, the Forge River Small Business Assistance Program would utilize state funding to provide grants to business owners to reduce expenses, and create a loan pool based on a line of credit from local financial institutions to provide low interest loans to allow business owners to pay back the remaining expense over 15 years, further reducing out of pocket costs, Sunderman said. State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, who  has been involved in those discussions, has already made a budget request for $250,000 to fund the grant program, Sunderman noted, and discussions are underway with a local bank regarding the loan program.  The community’s new State Senator, Monica Martinez, has stated that she will seek additional state funding to compliment the $250,000 requested by Assemblyman Thiele.

“Small businesses and water quality are critical to a prosperous Tri-Hamlet area. The Forge River Watershed Sewer District project will be the catalyst to both clean water and economic revitalization for the community”, stated Assemblyman Thiele.  “I have requested $250,000 in state funding for the Forge River Small Business Assistance Program to subsidize sewer hook-ups. This will allow our small businesses to generate more jobs and more economic activity while also protecting our water quality. I am confident the State Legislature and Governor will agree.”

“Sewers are critical for water quality and economic development for the community,” said Senator Martinez. “I am pleased to work in a bipartisan manner with Legislator Sunderman and the small business community to advocate for funding to make it easier and more affordable for those businesses to connect to sewers.”

Legislator Sunderman stated that he plans to submit legislation authorizing the program later this week, and is hopeful that the community will express support for the program.

“The Mastic-Shirley community is at crossroads, as the dream of providing sewers, which for many years seemed impossible, is finally in sight,” said Legislator Sunderman. “No problem is too difficult to solve if the community works together to find a solution. By approving the Forge River Watershed Sewer project in next Tuesday’s referendum, voters can make sure that $191 million in federal and state funding is used to cover the entire construction cost for the sewer project, to benefit this community.”