MERRICK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Millions of dollars are still available to help small businesses struggling due to the pandemic and Nassau County is now proposing million in new grants.

But many don’t know how or where to apply, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.

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It’s business as usual, pandemic style, in downtown Merrick, where many still wear masks and shop by appointment.

“They like the one-on-one with me in the store with the door locked,” said Julie Marchesella, who owns Queen of Hearts.

But as downtowns pivot toward normal, the toll of the year can be seen in vacant storefronts.

One in 7 Long Island businesses shuttered. Two hundred were in downtowns, according the Long Island Main Street Alliance and Small Business Administration.

Minority neighborhoods were hardest hit with 10% of downtown stores closed, according to the Rauch Foundation.

The loan process is hard to navigate.

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“Documentation, language, you name it. I think it was all the above. That’s what we were afraid of. So more layers know I think will help out,” said Louis Vasquez, president of the Long Island Chamber of Commerce.

More layers of help are coming: a possible replenishment of the federal Paycheck Protection Program. Low interest economic injury disaster loans, restaurant revitalization grants, New York’s $800 million in small business grants and Nassau County proposing $25 million in American Rescue Plan funds for small businesses.

“We intend for the new grant program to assist the bagel shop, the hair salon, the hardware store, all our retail businesses that make Nassau downtowns vibrant and our economy strong,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.

To help navigate the many levels, a new resource center will open in June in Eisenhower Park.

“It’ll be a one-stop shop. You’ll enter a portal, you’ll either find what you need online or you’ll contact the center and you’ll make an appointment to come in and meet with someone,” said Deputy Nassau County Executive Evlyn Tsimis.

While there is a myriad of grant and loan offers now for small business, a survey by the Long Island Main Street Alliance found one-third had no idea help is available.

“Use their attorneys, use their accountants, use their friends who are in the know,” said Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island. “Make sure they access these resources. They are out there.”

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The best way the public can help their community, merchants say, is to shop local.

Carolyn Gusoff