Forgotten tenants

Nonprofit renters have been affected by the pandemic too

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 11/30/21

REGION — The news has been full of the struggles of residential tenants in the pandemic. But what about small businesses that rent? What about nonprofits?

Lockdown forced many businesses and …

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Forgotten tenants

Nonprofit renters have been affected by the pandemic too

Posted

REGION — The news has been full of the struggles of residential tenants in the pandemic. But what about small businesses that rent? What about nonprofits?

Lockdown forced many businesses and nonprofits to close. And they reopened to discover a changed landscape: fewer workers or volunteers, more mail-ordering, health and safety-related requirements to avoid spreading COVID-19. But property taxes for businesses are still due; utilities still need to be paid.

“While some state governments have enacted eviction moratoriums, little other help besides Payment Protection Program money has been granted to businesses working to make rent while operating at limited capacity—or not operating at all,” wrote Perrie Weiner et al. in Bloomberg Law.

Some states set commercial-eviction moratoria.

In New York, it applies to businesses that are “independently owned and operated, not dominant in [their] field, and employ 100 or fewer persons,” according to nycourts.gov.

Both the commercial and residential moratoria have been extended to January 15, 2022. Anyone who files needs to prove that they have been harmed by the pandemic.

It is unclear whether the moratorium applies to nonprofits.

In Pennsylvania, there is no eviction moratorium for households or small businesses (although Philadelphia had one in place for the first half of 2021 for restaurants). Emergency rental assistance is available for households.

So where does that leave nonprofits?

Sometimes they rent from other nonprofits; perhaps that helps. They can apply for grants; they can try to get funds from local governments. They can hope donations come through.

But that doesn’t mean they have it easy. They too have had to be flexible. Two area nonprofits talk about what they’ve done.

Rocky’s Reusables, Liberty

The animals who are cared for at Rocky’s Refuge are safe. As animals come in, they are fostered out or stay at the refuge.

But Rocky’s Reusables, the Liberty thrift shop that provides the funding for the refuge’s spay/neuter program and the medical care sometimes needed by stray or abused animals, will lose its location. And that is a serious problem. “Rocky’s Reusables is vitally important to our finances,” founder and CEO Virginia Grant said.

The final move-out date has been extended since the story first hit the news earlier this year. “It’s been month-to-month.” But the owners will need to start working on the space. Possibly by Christmas, maybe in the spring, she said.

Originally the current space was donated, then the owner sold it and the present landlords let them have it for a token rent, she said. But eventually, that was no longer possible.

As the owners need to rent the space for more money, the thrift shop needs a new home.

Donations help, but can’t cover everything. “People do give generously, but a vet bill can be $2,000.”

Typically, the shelter requires about $1,500 to $1,800 a month for basic care, food and most vet bills; costs depend on the needs of the animals and how many new ones come in, she said.

New cats must be spayed or neutered. All animals need to be examined for the myriad other problems that can arise, like the litters of kittens with upper respiratory infections or diarrhea, or a starving, pregnant horse.

There is hope on the horizon. “I’ve spoken to someone with a space,” Grant said. There are some questions still to resolve, but “I feel pretty confident about that situation.”

In the meantime, Rocky’s Reusables still occupies its space in Liberty and still raises money for the refuge and the animals it keeps safe.

Grant has a tiny core base of volunteers; more would be extremely helpful, she said. Animals need to be fostered; the thrift shop needs to be run, wherever it lands. Financial donations help with care.

And in the meantime, if someone sees stray cats, Grant said, “just call us. We’ll get them spayed and neutered.” Because that work continues, no matter what.

The Artists’ Market Community Center, Shohola

The press release went out in September: the Artists’ Market Community Center (AMCC) in Shohola was giving away art to the community.

The building they were in had been sold, and “we were in limbo for a long while,” wrote director Nick Roes in an email.  “Between COVID and a few pending sales that fell through, we found it difficult to be fair with our donors, artists, and our community in general. We honestly didn’t know what our future at the space would be.”

Ultimately, it ended happily.

“Our new landlord made an accommodation for us to remain upstairs,” he said. They had to compress everything, but the AMCC is still planning events.

“We still don’t know for sure, but it looks like we’ll continue having our monthly ‘Creative Differences’ discussion groups, and some themed art events during 2022.”

The orphaned art show was a success, he added. “We gifted roughly $3,000 of donated artwork to the community we hoped to help build.”

Space was cleared, so to speak. They could start anew.

“I actually think commercial establishments faced greater challenges than us,” Roes said. “We’re fueled by volunteers and donors, united by our mission. We believe that by learning to appreciate the beauty and diversity of art we may come to appreciate the beauty and diversity in each other.”

Art fosters acceptance and understanding, and it builds community. “We feel privileged to be involved, and in a way, the more challenges the community faces the greater the opportunity we have to serve.”

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