New Jersey businesses up and down the state are now eligible for another $135 million round of grants meant to transition them from COVID-19 closures toward the post-pandemic economic reopening, after Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bill into law on July 21.
The bipartisan measure, Senate Bill 3982, is the latest relief package the state has enacted to help businesses struggling in the wake of COVID-19. Broken down, the aid includes $55 million to microbusinesses, $15 million to bars and restaurants, $10 million to child care facilities, $10 million to arts and culture groups, and $45 million to other small businesses and nonprofits.
Lawmakers approved the money in June without any no-votes.
In a separate announcement that same afternoon, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority – which oversees state relief for businesses – rolled out a $17.5 million “New Jersey Community Stage Relief Grant Program,” which provides grants of up to $300,000 for live venues.
That’s on top of $7.5 million offered by the New Jersey Council on the Arts, all in a bid to help keep alive the pandemic-battered arts and culture sector.
The pools of funding are part of a wave of hundreds of millions of dollars in state and federal aid rolled out by the Murphy administration since March last year in an effort to keep businesses from going belly up amid a practical shutdown of the state economy.
Gov. Phil Murphy, in a statement Wednesday afternoon, said the funds are key to help employers recover as they “continue to struggle from the economic aftermath of COVID-19.”
By an official account, the NJEDA has approved more than 64,000 grants totaling $432 million, according to public records, out of $700 million in small business relief.
“The targeted funds for restaurants, arts and culture organizations, and child care providers will be particularly important in ensuring businesses that were severely impacted by the pandemic have the resources they need to make a full recovery,” said Tim Sullivan, who heads the NJEDA.
“These long-awaited federal funds may help to prevent the closure of more surviving businesses after steep financial losses brought on by the pandemic,” reads a statement from Michele Siekerka, who heads the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.
She cautioned that the state has seen a “marked decrease of small businesses open in New Jersey compared to January 2020.”
“Targeting this assistance to those that have been hit the hardest, including microbusinesses, food and beverage businesses, nonprofits and child care providers, will be a positive for New Jersey’s economy,” she continued.
But the hiring shortage has been all the more painful for businesses as they try to navigate the reopening, she lamented. Unemployment is at 7.3%–higher than the national 5.9% average.
Murphy contends that retirement levels, difficulties in finding child care, and attempts to find higher-paying employment are contributing to the shortage, as is the added $300 in weekly benefits. But he’s nonetheless maintained that he will not discontinue that federal unemployment relief, which expires in September.