A small shop featuring "Candy and Judaica Gifts" located in Highland Park, NJ received grant funding, among 51 other businesses in Middlesex County.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—In June, amid the COVID-19 pandemic’s hit to the economy, Middlesex County announced a plan to aid privately owned businesses using federal funds.

Using the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the county would award $1,062,260 in grants for job retention and creation to local establishments with no more than ten employees and net incomes of $100,000 or less per year.

The program follows guidelines set forth by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The following day, hopeful grantees began submitting applications via a cloud portal, which only remained open for a two-week period, ending June 17.

CV1 and CV3 are terms used by HUD to designate tranches provided by the CARES Act for CDBG funding. CV1 and CV3 were received by eligible cities, counties and states, while CV2 only pertained to states.

“For this particular program, payment was made half upon award and half at a later date because unlike the second Small Business Grant program, the CDBG-CV focused on retaining/creating jobs and funding would be used for future expenses,” said Mellisa Bellamy, Division Head, Housing, Community Development & Social Services Department.

But it was only for establishments not located and operating in: New Brunswick, Edison, Old Bridge, Woodbridge, Sayreville, and Perth Amboy — municipalities that had received their own CDBG-CV allocations.

Grantees need to accurately document that a certain number of the jobs their establishments will retain and create would be for persons in low and moderate income households — “A main criterion of the program,” according to a document detailing “Low/Moderate Income Jobs (LMI).”

That document provides data on family size and household income, and explains how to properly document LMI Jobs retained or created.

The county told NBT that the grantees have been providing this documentation, reporting on job creation, retention, and expenses as a requirement prior to receiving the second half of their funding.

Recipients have until the contract conclusion of June 30, 2021 to submit documentation.

Unlike subsequent COVID-19 relief grant programs and rounds of funding from Middlesex County (MC-SBRG), which leveraged CARES Act funding the county received directly from United States Treasury, the CDBG program must adhere to HUD guidelines.

The program’s overall goal was to respond to the pandemic “in order to develop viable communities through the provision of housing, living environments, and the expansion of economic opportunities, particularly for those in low and moderate- income households,” said the county in an August 12 news release.

Freeholder Kenneth Armwood chairs the Business Innovation, Education and Opportunity Committee.

Freeholder Deputy Director Kenneth Armwood announced news of the program at the August 20 meeting of county’s Board of Chosen Freeholders.

Armwood said that Deluca Advisory Services and Magyar Bank are involved with cross checking the applications against other funds received, since categorical duplicate funding is not permissable.

Applicants had to submit a short narrative and financial data on their business and the need for COVID-19 related funding,

By mid-July, they were notified of their application status, according to the county.

In the release, the county said it awarded $1,200,450 to 51 establishments and that the grants would be distributed in the forthcoming weeks to recipients impacted by COVID-19.

While it reiterated that the program was created under HUD guidelines, and that establishments receiving the grants must hire or retain employees from LMI households, it did not clarify that the payouts were only half of each grantees amount, nor list each of the amounts.

The county on December 21 confirmed that “grant recipients needed to provide documentation and expenditure reporting before being eligible to receive the balance of their grants,” adding that, “recipients who met this criteria were notified [December 22] that checks are available.”

New Brunswick Today obtained a list each businesses name, location, owner’s name, and the businesses “Total Amount Funded,” though each had actually only been paid half that amount.

While it’s unclear how many applications were received, the amount funded to each depended on the number of applications received in June.

According to the list, a total of $1,239,450 was allocated for the 51 businesses.

Nineteen received the maximum amount of $30,000, while another business received $29,000.

Sweets to Nuts, a small shop in Highland Park, received $3,000, which marked the smallest of the 51 grants.

The full list of 51 grant recipients includes:

  • Arjun Corporation (South Amboy) – $20,000
  • YSSE LLC (Highland Park) – $24,000
  • Pro Brow and Lashes (South Plainfield) – $20,000
  • Jensen Holdings LLC dba Sweets to Nuts (Highland Park) – $3,000
  • Big Apple Academy (East Brunswick) – $30,000
  • Carpet On Wheels, Inc (Monroe) – $20,000
  • Burn Fitness Studio (Piscataway) – $10,000
  • Massage Matters, LLC (Highland Park) – $18,250
  • Music Notes Academy, LLC (East Brunswick) – $30,000
  • JB Professional Services (North Brunswick) – $30,000
  • Break Stuff NJ (North Brunswick) – $20,000
  • Bhumi Global Business (Monroe) – $30,000
  • Arrow Trucking LLC (Carteret) – $15,000
  • New Jersey Pediatric Feeding Associates (East Brunswick) – $24,000
  • Create That Party LLC (South Plainfield) – $30,000
  • Scuderia Automotive LLC (Cranbury) – $15,000
  • Bal Veer LLC (North Brunswick) – $30,000
  • Freedman Chiropractic  Center LLC (East Brunswick) – $24,000
  • Starrcy Inc./DBA Tuscana Salon (East Brunswick) – $25,000
  • Shri Ram Hospitality LLC (North Brunswick) – $24,000
  • JRK Ventures LLC RTB  Lounge (South Amboy) – $30,000
  • KKB TRUCKING (Carteret) – $25,000
  • Integrated arts preschool  LLC (Jamesburg) – $30,000
  • La Cazuela (South River) – $25,000
  • Teddy’s Luncheonette, Inc. (Cranbury) – $24,000
  • Europa Parts LLC (Piscataway) – $30,000
  • FIT IN 30 BOOT CAMP LLC (Dayton) – $24,000
  • Metuchen Pet Club LLC (Metuchen) – $30,000
  • Eat more catering (Metuchen) – $30,000
  • DBellaSalon (Kendall Park) – $20,000
  • Aheloos LLC (Metuchen) – $30,000
  • ELITE Fitness Alliance (East Brunswick) – $30,000
  • The Art Hut (Spotswood) – $30,000
  • Metuchen Massage Therapy, Inc. (Metuchen) – $24,000
  • Carteret Family Hair Care (Carteret) – $20,000
  • D & C Cleaner, Inc. (Middlesex) – $25,000
  • EV Barber (South Amboy) – $30,000
  • Roll Maal LLC DBA- The Kabab Factory (Metuchen) – $24,000
  • Nail Boutique LLC (Highland Park) – $13,200
  • Supreme Cleaners (Carteret) – $30,000
  • Guru Nanak food llc (Carteret) – $20,000
  • VIP USA Limited Liability Company (Metuchen) – $30,000
  • LYTTC, Inc (Dunellen) – $20,000
  • Lab Test Products, Inc. (Middlesex) – $15,000
  • MEREY (Highland Park) – $24,000
  • Allure Beauty Salon  (South River) – $30,000
  • E Andre Constructions BServices Inc. (South River) – $15,000
  • Iron Strong Athletics LLC (North Brunswick) – $30,000
  • R and S Telecom  Management Group (Helmetta) – $30,000
  • shahnawaz Food LLC (Piscataway) – $30,000
  • NUPUR SALON (South Plainfield) – $29,000
Music Notes Academy

Brandon Kurzawa, the owner of Music Notes Academy in East Brunswick, told NBT that in early November he had mailed a packet of records from his instructional-based business, which was established in 2006.

Kurzawa said he’d use the remainder of the grant to pay rent, utilities, and employees, though, like another grantee NBT spoke to, was not given a date or timeline as to when the other half would be issued. 

“Hope they issue the second half soon,” he said.

“I really don’t understand how small business owners can keep this up,” he added, citing the state’s capacity limitation on gatherings and “overall fear,” among those operating both essential and non-essential businesses.

Kurzawa, whose establishment was marked for the maximum grant amount of $30,000, said he didn’t know when he’d receive the second half, adding that he’s applied for a myriad of loans or grants recently, only to see most of them get denied.

Given the rise in positive cases and deaths attributed to the virus, he said: “There are going to be no small businesses left, the only way we are hanging on by a thread is the fact that we were able to shift to online [teaching], but I would say that a third of the economy is gone at this point.”

Kurzawa said that students need music in their lives now, more than ever. To that end, he’s been finding ways to give.

“We began the COVID-19 [lockdown] offering any parent a free instrument rental, regardless [of whether] they were a Music Notes student or not,” he said, citing the many free books he shipped to students’ homes.

The CDBG-CV program seemed appropriate for very small businesses that fall between the cracks without the resources to obtain Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans or get other direct CARES Act aid, which allotted some $2.5 trillion into the economy starting this past summer.

However, that wasn’t the case for all 51 establishments, as some had also received PPP loans, which they quickly exhausted.

Moreover, not all have the capacity to wait out the pandemic, amid positive news of vaccine distribution, until the largely unknown time when increased normality will return to the economy.   

Scores of small businesses are closing; nationally, the amount of closures recently reached a six-month high.

In the Garden State, through December 1, the number of small businesses open decreased by about 28% compared to January 2020, according to tracktherecovery.org.

Meanwhile, in order to make funds available for businesses in Hub City impacted by the pandemic, New Brunswick Planning Director Daniel Dominguez led a hearing to amend the city’s “Annual Action Plan” on December 10, to amend the city’s plan for about $700,000 in COVID-19 funds.

$665,000 would be allocated as business grants, with remainder to be allocated for administration, by the planning department. Dominguez noted that there could be changes, though, “depending on need.”

Asked by NBToday for a breakdown of the funds, Dominguez said the city had received about $1.28 million — about 203,000 in administration and planning allocation for the carrying out of the plan and the grants, and had allocated $410,000 for rental assistance for members of the city of New Brunswick.

Asked if the rules for the distribution of the $665,000 to Hub City businesses had been finalized, he responded that they weren’t formalized.

“The general model that has been used throughout other places that have implemented has seemed to be one lump sum payment with the string attached typically being the requirement to employ a low to moderate income person from the locality in which they’re located, or should that job turnover … that the future person in that position continue to be low to moderate income,” he said.

He cited “residential rental assistance,” which he said he expects “to frame out as business rental assistance.” The city is hoping to see the business grant program go live by early January.

Middlesex County has made it clear that businesses not funded via the CDBG-CV program, may apply for other COVID-19 relief through the county, made possible by CARES Act funds, as well.

There are millions of dollars still available, in its CARES Act Small Business Relief Grant (MC-SBRG) program, according to the county. That program is open to businesses located in all 25 Middlesex County municipalities.

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Business Reporter at New Brunswick Today | dschatz@nb.today

Dave is an award-winning business reporter who has authored over 200 articles for New Brunswick Today.

Dave is an award-winning business reporter who has authored over 200 articles for New Brunswick Today.