With Gov. Phil Murphy formally committing another $235 million of COVID-relief for businesses, a new round of funding will go live next week for a program that essentially pays pandemic-hit restaurants to prepare meals for the hungry.
Under the Sustain and Serve NJ program, nonprofits throughout New Jersey have used $14 million in state subsidies to purchase 1.5 million meals from 340 restaurants to go toward residents in need. Applications will be available online between June 28 and July 18 for another round of $10 million for state-based for-profit and nonprofit organizations, according to a June 23 announcement from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, which oversees the state’s COVID-19 business relief.
Eligible organizations will receive grants of between $100,000 and $2 million to purchase meals in bulk from New Jersey restaurants and then distribute them to area residents at no cost.
Tim Sullivan, who heads the NJEDA, said the program would “help even more restaurants keep their doors open and their employees paid as they recover from the economic and health impact of COVID-19.”
The Sustain and Serve NJ grants are part of $235 million in state economic subsidies the governor approved on June 22, meant to hold businesses over as they navigate the post-pandemic reopening, hiring shortages and lagging consumer hesitancy.
That includes $20 million for bars and restaurants, $120 million for micro-businesses, $10 million for child care providers, and $50 million for businesses with up to 50 employees.
Pre-registration for grants opened as the money was moving through the state Legislature.
Murphy estimated that his administration has given out more than $600 million in grants, low-interest loans and other forms of assistance since the COVID-19 closures first went into effect in March 2020. Those funds, he said on June 22 in Long Branch, “support our downtowns and small businesses and through them our communities and countless residents.”
Amid COVID-19 pandemic business closures and ensuing restrictions, businesses have relied on billions of dollars in state and federal aid, mostly grants, or forgivable or low-interest loans.
Under the federal Paycheck Protection Program, the U.S. Small Business Administration approved 157,405 forgivable loans totaling $17.3 billion in 2020, and in 2021 approved 134,362 loans totaling roughly $8 billion.