Gov. Cuomo, Main Street Needs A Hand From Albany

Of course, it’s vital that these businesses let potential customers know about their services. That’s the role of advertising in all its myriad forms. But advertising costs money, and the sad truth is that advertising is one of the first things small businesses cut when times are tough.

Put yourself in the shoes of a local restaurateur with a stack of bills and very little money coming in. By the time she finishes paying the most urgent bills - rent, food suppliers, payroll -there’s not much left for advertising. Whatever stimulus money she gets from Washington or Albany will most likely be needed to keep the door open and the lights on. Yet studies show that how well businesses survive a downturn is in large part determined by whether they continue to market and advertise during the hard times.

Fortunately, there is a way for Albany to prime the sales-tax pump to keep revenue flowing to both small businesses and state coffers. Let businesses use some of the money they would have sent to Albany, as sales taxes, to market their new offerings. The formula would be simple: Every dollar a small business spends on advertising (up to some reasonable limit) would be a dollar saved off that business’s sales tax bill.

It would be a win-win-win. Local businesses would be healthier because the increased advertising would jump-start sales. The state would get more sales tax revenue because local businesses would be selling more. And media companies (like ours) would benefit from the additional ad revenue. We’d like to think that we, too, are vital to the character and strength of our communities, not to mention our democracy. Think for a moment of the critical role that journalists have played in getting vital local information out to your community during this unprecedented crisis.

The Legislature has a lot on its plate right now, and the temptation will be to bury this idea, or to take the shortsighted view that we can’t afford to do it right now. But right now is when it’s needed. We’ve been impressed with Governor Cuomo’s levelheaded leadership in this crisis, and we call on him to back this innovative yet simple policy.

Covid-19 has completely changed the way we all live.

But along with worrying about keeping themselves and their families healthy, thousands of small business owners across New York state are losing sleep over how to keep this virus from killing the businesses they have worked so hard to build.

At the same time, lawmakers in Albany are trying to craft a budget in the face of plunging revenues. Sales taxes - much of them generated by small business - brought in a whopping $73.6 billion last year. Our schools, as well as other vital government services, rely on these funds. When a business fails - and too many are on the precipice of failure right now - that sales tax revenue goes, too.

We believe a simple proposal could help restart local business and bolster sales tax revenues, but swift action is required by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature.

Small businesses are the backbone of our communities. Everyone wants a thriving downtown where they can shop, eat or go to a movie. The good news is that small businesses have always been engines of innovation and entrepreneurship, and we are seeing that again today as they adapt to the new reality. Local gyms are streaming personal training sessions. Restaurants offer free delivery and online happy hours. Medical practices are expanding their telemedicine capabilities. Car mechanics are making house calls that require no personal contact at all.

Consumer Alert: Be Aware Of Novel Coronavirus Scams

• Be aware of emails asking for donations. Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding Don’t let anyone rush you into donating. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.

• Be alert of high prices on critical goods. Any New Yorker who sees excessively priced consumer goods and services that are used primarily for personal, family or household purposes to prevent or respond to novel coronavirus should file a complaint with DCP. New Yorkers can now report sudden and unexpected increases in consumer goods such as hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, or other health and sanitation related products by calling the consumer hotline toll free at 800-697-1220.

• Hang up on illegal robocallers. If you receive a call about scam novel coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes, hang up. Don’t press any numbers. The recording might say that pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, but it might lead to more robocalls, instead.

• Be alert to “investment opportunities.” The S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is warning people about online promotions, including on social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure coronavirus and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result.

New York State is closely monitoring the novel coronavirus. For up to date information on the novel coronavirus, visit the New York State Department of Health website or call the Novel Coronavirus Hotline at 1-888-364-3065.

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection serves to educate, assist and empower the State’s consumers. For more consumer protection information, call the DCP Helpline at 800-697-1220, Monday through Friday, 8:30am-4:30pm or visit the DCP website at www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection. The Division can also be reached via Twitter at @NYSConsumer or Facebook at www.facebook.com/nysconsumer

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) has alerted consumers about scammers taking advantage of the novel coronavirus. Scammers are using techniques that typically arise with a major global event such as: falsely claiming to be online sellers of popular goods; setting up fake charities; sending fake emails and texts that contain harmful links designed to steal personal information; and using robocalls to pitch novel coronavirus treatments and work at home schemes. People should be on the lookout for scammers trying to take advantage of public fears.

Below are tips to protect yourself from novel coronavirus scams:

• Research online sellers before placing an order. Check out the seller by searching online for the person or company’s name, phone number and email address, plus words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” If everything checks out, pay by credit card and keep a record of your transaction.

• Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. It could download a virus onto your computer or device. Make sure the anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer is up to date.

• Be aware of emails coming from unknown senders. Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts claiming to have information about the virus. For the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus in New York State, visit the New York State Department of Health website.

• Ignore online offers for vaccinations. If you see ads touting prevention, treatment, or cure claims for the novel coronavirus, ask yourself: if there’s been a medical breakthrough, would you be hearing about it for the first time through an ad or sales pitch?

Protect Yourself From Identity Theft During Tax Season

If you hire a tax preparer, do your research to ensure they’re competent and ethical. Avoid preparers who boast that they can obtain larger refunds than their competitors, who don’t provide you with their IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN), or who base their fee on a percentage of your refund.

Make sure your tax preparer is willing to sign your return as your tax professional. The preparer must also provide you with a copy of your return.

Carefully review your return. You’re responsible for the its accuracy. If you hire a paid preparer, never sign a blank return.

Report it. If you’re a victim or believe you may be a victim of tax-related identity theft, alert us immediately. We will track your information to help keep it private and protected.

The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, along with the New York State Office of Information Technology Services and the Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection shares tips to help New York taxpayers guard against identity theft and prevent tax fraud.

Tips to prevent identity theft and fraud

File promptly. Filing your tax return as soon as possible can reduce the likelihood that an identity thief will be able to claim a fraudulent tax refund using your stolen information.

Protect data and documents used to prepare your return. Keep sensitive personal information and documents safe during and after the filing process, and delete or shred once no longer needed. It’s important to regularly review the steps necessary to secure your sensitive information.