NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York City is restoring $1.5 million to provide free legal support for small businesses struggling to make rent during the coronavirus pandemic.

“To help them address issues with their landlords, to help them find a way through,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.

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De Blasio said the funding is part of the Commercial Lease Assistance Program.

“This is an initiative that worked in the past. Over 900 cases were resolved,” he said. “What it meant was, overwhelmingly, small business owners of color and women-owned small businesses, immigrant-owned small businesses benefited.”

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Small Business Services Commissioner Jonnel Doris shared the story of two sisters who own a pair of businesses in Harlem and the South Bronx.

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“We were able to help them reclaim their security deposit when they moved to another location, also help them with maintenance issues that they were having with their landlord, most importantly responded to real estate tax demand that they were having, the challenges that they were having, providing the legal support that they needed with their landlord,” he said. “This business was not only saved but this business is thriving right now.”

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Doris added the department offers these services in a number of languages.

The mayor credited Staten Island Assemblyman Charles Fall with suggesting the idea to restore the program.

Last week, the city also announced it is offering free legal support for tenants fighting evictions. The tenant protection portal can be found online here or by calling 311 and asking for the tenant hotline.

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