A year after Gov. Kathy Hochul kicked off multiple initiatives to invest in New York’s tourism industry, two of the programs haven’t distributed any funds and hundreds of applicants have been deemed ineligible.
As part of the $450 million commitment announced last November, the governor launched a $100 million Tourism Return-to-Work grant program, designed to help businesses rehire workers, and the $25 million Meet in New York grant program, which focuses on business-focused travel.
As of September 13, about 59 percent of the 85 applicants for the Meet in New York program had been deemed ineligible and nearly 38 percent of the 689 applicants for the return-to-work program didn’t qualify. None of the eligible applicants have received state funds.
Asked about the flow of money and eligibility requirements, a spokesperson for Empire State Development, which is administering both programs, noted that in recent months they had changed deadlines and eligibility requirements and provided clarity about the programs to make them as flexible as possible.
“We are confident that these enhancements will provide even more opportunities for applicants to receive state support,” said the ESD spokesperson. “The Meet in NY and Tourism Return to Work programs were designed to help thousands of tourism and hospitality businesses that were among the hardest hit by the pandemic, emerge from economic hardship.”
For the Meet in New York program the application deadline was extended from the end of this year to next summer, the venue capacity requirement to qualify was lowered and the eligibility window for qualifying events was increased. Funding for eligible applicants will be awarded after a qualifying event is held.
Changes were also made the return-to-work program and Empire State Development anticipated a first round of grant awards will be announced “shortly.”
In September, the number of hospitality and leisure jobs in New York was 10 percent higher than the year before, but still about 10 percent below the industry mark at the same time before the pandemic, according to state Department of Labor data.