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Schumer visits Rochester, touting billions in COVID-19 aid pouring into New York state

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer stopped by Bug Jar on Monroe Avenue on Wednesday to talk about the federal government’s efforts to save performance spaces, specifically the $16 billion in Save our Stages grants from the U.S. Small Business Administration. The grants come from the latest COVID-19 stimulus package, also known as the American Rescue Plan. 

During a news conference with Bug Jar owner Aaron Gibalski, Schumer said the SBA will start accepting applications from theaters, concert halls, and other venues. He also pointed out that the federal government released a new application for paycheck protection loans. 

Schumer said both measures are expected to help keep entertainment venues afloat for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“God willing, by September, when these grants expire – some of them expire in January – we will have beaten COVID and the Bug Jar will be back again,” said Schumer. “I heard the Black Keys – they were one of my favorites – and Lizzo was here? Wow. So this is a pretty good place. Pretty hip place.”

Gibaliski said he doesn't know when the small bar/concert hall will reopen but may experiment with events this summer. 

“We have a lot of local talent that’s itching to perform,” said Gibalski.

Schumer also addressed the extension of the Child Tax Credit, saying that the law will funnel about $7 billion to eligible families in New York. Some of them will receive $300 monthly payments from the federal government beginning in July. 

“Rochester has a lot of kids in poverty,” said Schumer. “Half of them will be lifted out of poverty by the American Rescue Plan.”

Deondra Dukes, owner of a small hair supply business and part of the Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative, said the payments could make her dream of owning a house come true and also help others make ends meet. 

“It’s important that we don’t make assumptions about what we think people may need, but to actually get out to the community to ask what they do need,” said Dukes. 

Like Dukes and Schumer, Larry Marx, CEO of The Children’s Agenda believes that the monthly payments should be permanent; saying the commitment would be similar to programs like Social Security and Medicare. 

“We are on the verge of life-changing support for those families who most need it in our country,” said Marx. 

Schumer said the payments expire at the end of the year

Schumer also touched on President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion American Jobs Act proposal. Schumer said it would address aging infrastructure, along with climate and environmental justice while creating millions of new jobs nationwide, including tens of thousands in the Finger Lakes region. 

“Every community, large and small, rural, suburban, and urban, would benefit from the American Jobs Act should it become law,” said Schumer.

When asked about specific projects, Schumer said he’ll rely on local politicians to make requests to his office. He said he hasn’t received any in the last year due the COVID-19 pandemic. 

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.
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