NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ—More desperately needed financial relief for New Jersey’s small businesses was made official on July 28.
Governor Phil Murphy said another $15 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding will go to businesses across the state — mostly where direct funding was not provided to counties.
The announcement comes on the heels of news that the NJ Redevelopment Authority will administer a grant program to help businesses in 64 cities pay their rent. New Brunswick is one of the cities included.
In early June, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) set aside a third of CARES Act funding to support qualified businesses located in one of the 715 census tracts selected as New Jersey Opportunity Zones, given the geography and demographics served. By targeting these areas, officials aim to ensure that communities of color receive funding.
At that time only three counties: Essex, Ocean, and Passaic Counties also provided $10 million to support additional grants in their own counties by distributing CARES Act funds.
Middlesex County officials said that the county will first give out some of their $155 million towards municipal governments to reimburse them for eligible expenses, before extending funds to small businesses here.
NJEDA in early April launched its largest COVID-19 relief program, the “Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program” with just $5 million of available funds. The new funding solidifies $100 million NJEDA is currently administering through programs to establishments that faced mandatory closures and pandemic related challenges.
“It’s another example of the reason why we need more federal cash and federal assistance,” said Murphy at a July 28 media briefing in North Brunswick, in front of A-List Hair Studio, a women-owned business, which was approved on June 29 for $10,000, the maximum grant amount allowed, per program guidelines. (The average grant award is about $3,000.)
A-List rents shop space in a small new strip mall on Route 130, Northbound, named Saint Clara Plaza, which was completed in 2018.
In phase 2 of NJEDA’s program many local businesses or entities received grants ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 each.
The Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce & Convention & Visitors Bureau received $4,000.
Other recipients in New Brunswick included:
- Redd’s Biergarten ($10,000)
- Red Carpet Inn/Motel 6 ($10,000)
- Old Queens Tavern ($10,000)
- Cambo Box ($4,000)
- 7-Eleven #35664 ($4,000)
- coLab Arts, Inc ($3,000)
- Brookside Deli, ($2,000)
- Forever Beauty, ($1,000)
- Barbie Nails ($1,000)
Aside from A-List, over 30 small businesses were also approved for funds, while three others were located in Highland Park:
- New Brunswick Coffee LLC, trading as Penstock Coffee ($8,000)
- Primehealth & Wellness Center ($4,000)
- B&B Auto Repair, Inc. ($4,000)
NJEDA has received 33,000 applications for the second and final round of funding, but the program is now oversubscribed and not accepting anymore applications. They have said they intend to “fulfill a significant portion of the applications already in the pipeline.”
“With the help of the NJEDA, despite being closed for over three months, we were able to open our doors again,” said A-List co-owner April Scelsa. “The grant we received allowed us to provide the [personal protective equipment] we needed to keep ourselves, our staff, and our guests safe as we reopen, and to keep employees on the payroll for longer than we were able to otherwise.”
Citing a devastating economic crisis that would likely remain “as long as the pandemic” and beyond, NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan, said: “While the COVID-19 pandemic is first and foremost a public health crisis, it has also created major economic challenges that have hit minority- and women-owned businesses the hardest.”
“While there is still significantly more work to do, the insights we have gained from what we have accomplished so far will guide our next steps toward addressing business owners’ concerns and helping them prepare for a strong recovery.”
“Our goal is to help stabilize and support as many small businesses as possible to get through this most difficult part of the crises… but also to do the investments that they need to be resilient in the face of what is going to be an ongoing challenge in the months and probably longer to come.”
Added Sullivan: “And so it’s been a really intentional focus of governor Murphy and our entire team to provide a suite of resources particularly focused on historically underserved communities.”
Murphy said that “the Hispanic community generally is exploding as a percentage of our population and as a percentage of the small businesses,” adding that the growth “is a central element of our states broad tapestry our society as well as our economy and our business community — especially our small business community.”
Murphy then introduced the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, Carlos Medina.
“We are the voice of the 120,000 Hispanic owned businesses that call NJ home,” said Medina. “We guesstimate those businesses contribute $20 billion annually to the NJ economy.”
Medina said “direct funding” allowed his organization to process nearly 300 PPP, EIDL and EDA direct loans for chamber members.
“These are members that already face a huge challenge; it could be a language hurdle … so we are their mentor and lawyer and CPA, try to help them out. But just like we had to pivot, EDA had to do a lot with a little.”
The non-profit chamber, which Medina said trains some 100 entrepreneurs a year, has a “lean overhead.”
“So this extra $15 million will go a long way… not just for our members but for many small businesses that are in crises right now.”
NJEDA said more than $33 million in grants has already been distributed to some 10,415 small businesses in New Jersey through the program.
Dave is an award-winning business reporter who has authored over 200 articles for New Brunswick Today.