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Gillibrand urges SBA to aid firms hurt by NHL lockout

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand called on the U.S. Small Business Administration Monday to work with Buffalo businesses that have been hurt by the National Hockey League lockout.

In a letter to SBA Administrator Karen Gordon Mills, Gillibrand, D-NY, said local businesses in downtown Buffalo that rely on hockey-related revenues from crowds this time of year are being harmed, as the lockout reaches its 11th week without a resolution and the likelihood increases that the season will be canceled.

In a typical season, hockey fans – including Buffalo Sabres supporters, opposing team fans and especially fans from Canada – often eat in local restaurants, attend games and stay overnight in downtown hotels. That's not happening with the lockout, which has cost the Buffalo economy nearly $2 million in lost hotel revenues alone, Gillibrand noted.

As a result, she said, the business owners "continue to face the uncertainty of their future due to a situation entirely out of their control."

"The effect of the lockout on Buffalo's downtown economy has been devastating, as hundreds of businesses and their employees rely heavily upon revenue generated from Sabres game attendees," Gillibrand wrote. "These operations range from restaurants and nightclubs to merchandisers and transportation companies."

She urged the SBA to host a workshop and talk with local businesses about special relief and assistance that might be available to them "during challenging situations such as this," possibly in coordination with the Empire State Development Corp., the Small Business Development Center network and other resources. The SBA offers loan programs for businesses, including a micro-loan of small, short-term credit that can be used as working capital or to buy inventory, supplies and equipment.

"The Buffalo Sabres are a vital part of the economic life of downtown Buffalo, and the lockout has been absolutely devastating for local businesses," Gillibrand said. "Local small-business owners rely tremendously on the revenues generated from Sabres' fans to keep their establishments operating, and it is imperative for them to have knowledge of the resources available to assist them through this difficult time."