State officials are rolling out a grant program to help three of New Jersey’s poorest cities – Atlantic City, Paterson and Trenton – kick-start long-stalled projects coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The grant program being operated by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority would pay for local officials to hash out long-term redevelopment plans and identify projects that could push those cities toward their goals. Funding is coming out of the $14.5 billion economic incentive package and entails rounds of up to $250,000 and then $750,000 in pursuit of developing and starting those plans.
“As we move forward from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital that we ensure communities that were hit the hardest have the support they need to come back stronger and ready for long-term growth,” reads a June 9 statement from Tim Sullivan, who heads the NJEDA.
“In this way, the program will provide immediate, tangible benefits for these communities while setting the stage for them to thrive,” he said.
In Atlantic City, the economy was heavily dependent on casinos and the ancillary economy of events, entertainment, dining and hotels. Amid the COVID-19 closures, which shuttered all nine casinos last year and then severely reduced their operations, unemployment in the region shot up to among the highest rates in the country.
State and local officials had been trying for years beforehand to diversify the city economy beyond just gambling, after the Great Recession shuttered five casinos and pushed Atlantic City to the brink of financial collapse.