Legislation introduced before the New York City Council would ease the application process for small businesses, with the objective of creating a single website portal for owners to access crucial documents for business operations.
Dubbed the “One-Stop Shop Business Portal,” the legislation focuses on centralizing the submission and status-check of applications, permits and licenses of city businesses. Currently, business owners must navigate a cluster of different city agencies to locate such documents. The bill is sponsored by 38 of 51 Council members and was introduced by Council Member Julie Menin, chair of the Small Business Committee.
“When you are opening up a new business or if you are operating an existing small business, you have to deal with myriad city agencies,” said Menin, who is holding a hearing on the legislation before they committee today. “Each and every time, you’re dealing with a separate permitting process and a separate website.”
With this proposed consolidation via an individual website, the “alphabet soup” of traversing several city websites will be reduced. The proposal adds the involvement of the Small Business Services agency. According to a press release, SBS would ask other city agencies to collect all vital information to add to the site and conduct annual checks on it for efficiency and effectiveness.
The legislation comes at a pivotal time where several small businesses in the city have struggled or shuttered altogether due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If you look at the relief, it was the big chains that gobbled up a lot of the financial relief,” said Menin. “A lot of mom-and-pop businesses were not able to access relief. They are the ones that are on the brink.”
The problems brought with the decentralized documentation network existed prior to the pandemic, although they were exacerbated by pandemic-related financial troubles for some businesses. In 2015, the de Blasio administration published the “Small Business First” report, which highlighted the issues with the current system. The report uses some of the same language that is utilized in today’s discussions of the decentralized system.
In a city where the elderly and non-English speakers are a large portion of small business owners, Menin said that providing digital literacy is an important factor when it comes to introducing such a website.
“First of all, it’s imperative that this portal will be in a multitude of different languages,” said Menin. “We are going to insist that this portal has really strong language access.”