Encourage Small Businesses and Homeowners to Take Advantage of Three-Month Penalty Forgiveness Period

City Hall – City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced that this week begins the NYC Penalty Relief Program for Homeowners and Business Owners, which eliminates penalties and interest on outstanding Environmental Control Board (ECB) debt for businesses, homeowners and individuals that apply between now and December 21st. The three-month penalty forgiveness program could reduce debts owed by 67 percent for some businesses and homeowners. The NYC Penalty Relief Program was proposed by Speaker Quinn in her State-of-the-City address in February and was signed into law by Mayor Bloomberg in July.

Applicants who resolve default violations by paying their base fines will not have to pay penalties, late fees or interest. In order to qualify, violations must be in default, and have had a hearing date scheduled before May 1, 2009.

“In tough financial times, we can’t afford to make things harder on small businesses by burying them in late penalties and interest,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “That why penalty relief is at the center of the City Council’s “Open for Business” plan, a package of common sense initiatives that will help our small business community to weather this recession. This program is truly a win-win, helping businesses and homeowners get out of debt while bringing millions of dollars into City coffers.”

“We are providing an opportunity for a small business or homeowner to take advantage of potentially significant relief and resolve some debt that may have built up during challenging economic circumstances,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The program fits into our Five Borough Economic Opportunity Plan, which focuses on easing financial burdens and removing barriers, so businesses and individuals can navigate through the national recession.”

“I applaud Speaker Quinn and Mayor Bloomberg for their efforts to ease the financial burden on both private citizens and businesses during this economic recession,” said Small Business Committee Chair David Yassky. “I strongly urge all that qualify for the Penalty Relief Program to take advantage of this one-time opportunity. During such a difficult period it is important that our government come up with creative ways to keep all New Yorkers afloat and this is one such solution.”

“In this tough economic climate it is imperative that we do all we can to assist small businesses,” said Council Member Helen Sears, primary sponsor of the penalty forgiveness legislation. “This program will cut through red tape to help keep small businesses afloat. I’m proud to have worked with Speaker Quinn and my colleagues to make this penalty relief a reality when businesses need it the most.”

“This program will allow small businesses and homeowners to resolve Environmental Control Board debt without paying late penalties or interest,” said Department of Finance Commissioner David M. Frankel. “It pays to pay now, because fines can triple if they are not addressed.”

“The program is a collaborative effort amongst a number of City agencies to create an opportunity to help those in debt clear up violations at a reduced cost,” said Director of the Mayor’s Office of Operations Jeff Kay. “With City agencies working together, applicants can resolve many different types of violations in one easy sweep.”

Small business owners and homeowners who believe they have default debt payable to the Environmental Control Board should visit www.nyc.gov/finance to apply, or call 311. Once the Department of Finance has received participants’ information, they will contact them with a list of default violations, the total amount due, and the reduced amount they may pay to resolve the debt.

Property owners with violations that require correction of a condition must submit proof of correction before allowing the debt to be resolved. Applicants will be informed of any violation that requires the condition to be corrected, along with instructions for how to prove the condition has been resolved.

Applying to participate in the program will not commit an applicant to resolving all outstanding violations, but any violations not resolved by December 21, 2009 will remain in effect and subject to late penalties and increasing interest, as well as enforcement action. In addition, other City agencies may withhold licenses and permits from businesses that have outstanding debt.