Gov. Phil Murphy is asking lawmakers to approve another $235 million in COVID-19 relief for businesses hit by pandemic-related closures, a proposal quickly endorsed by Democrats in the legislature.
The funds will be administered by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, which is overseeing $85 million in relief funds and has awarded $250 million worth of grants, loans and other aid to a combined 55,000 businesses in the past year. Like prior rounds of funding, the new aid would come out of the state’s allotment under the Trump-era Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
Applications went live this week for $85 million in assistance, which is broken down into smaller batches for specific types of businesses. A $15 million pot of grant funding for struggling arts, theater and culture organizations will be jointly administered by the NJEDA and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.
Murphy approved that previous round of funding following criticism from lawmakers that they did not have adequate say in how the state was spending federal CARES Act money.
State Senators Dawn Addiego, D-8th District, Vin Gopal, D-11th District, and Joseph Lagana, D-38th District, said in a statement that they would introduce legislation providing for the new funds. The proposal has the support of Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-19th District, according to the news release. Six Assembly Democrats said in a separate statement that they would introduce the measure in the lower house.
Applications will move forward at a later date pursuant to the federal $16 billion Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program, meant to help theaters and other live venues slammed by the COVID-19 pandemic and related closures.
Under the proposal from the governor’s office, the NJEDA would allocate $120 million for microbusinesses, $20 million for bars and restaurants, $10 million for child care facilities, $25 million for new businesses and start-ups, $10 million for the “Sustain and Serve” program which pays restaurants to prepare meals for residents in need, and $50 million in other business grants.
“The legislation sets aside $30 million specifically for restaurants, and most important, it includes a $25 million fund for the new restaurants, retailers and service providers that we need to fill the vacant storefronts in our downtown business districts left empty by businesses that closed,” said Addiego, the lead sponsor, in the statement.
This article was updated at 4:00 p.m. on May 7, 2021 to add legislative sponsorship of the measure.