Reopen News: Struggling Long Island businesses hope Downtown Deals program provides post-pandemic lifeline

LONG ISLAND (WABC) -- Officials in Nassau and Suffolk counties are teaming up to launch a program to help local businesses struggling after the coronavirus pandemic.

Discover Long Island teamed up with the Industrial Development Agencies (IDA) of both Nassau and Suffolk counties to launch a free mobile program called "Downtown Deals Travel Pass."

More than 100 businesses in Farmingdale, Great Neck, Rockville Centre, Greenport, Huntington and Patchogue are included in the program.

"We encourage our residents and visitors to utilize this digitized platform to explore the endless gems in the vibrant downtowns that are the fabric of our community," said Kristen Jarnagin, president and CEO of Discover Long Island.

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Participants are able to sign-up for the Downtown Deals Travel Pass at DiscoverLongIsland.com/deals.

They will receive a link to their mobile phone, which opens the passport and directs users to add the button to their home screen.

Once the user is ready to redeem their pass, they simply hand their phone over at the ticketing or checkout counter to access their deal.

"This new digital incentive is another important tool made available to the public to help our local businesses recover from the unprecedented challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Tony Catapano, executive director of the Suffolk County IDA.

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A recent study by Nassau and Suffolk counties found that the hospitality industry was the hardest hit industry on Long Island due to the pandemic.

The study showed Long Island lost approximately 80,000 hospitality jobs, and it is believed it will take two years to recover some of those jobs -- but approximately 25,000 of those will be permanent lost jobs.

"A key to our economic recovery from COVID-19 is the revitalization and the vibrancy of our downtowns," Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.

Alyson Kanaras, the owner of Whiskey Down Diner in Farmingdale, said she was unaware of the travel pass, but she signed up as soon as Eyewitness News made her aware of the program.

Kanaras says business is slowly starting to get better.

"Especially with the inside, people are getting more comfortable I feel like," she said.

Arsalan Pourmand, with Flux Coffee in Farmingdale, said if it wasn't for nationwide online sales of his coffee, he's not sure he would have survived the pandemic.

"We were pretty slow for a pretty long time, and it's been, you know, much quieter than it has been in the past," he said.

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