Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and city officials last week unveiled an ambitious 18-month economic recovery plan coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
City officials said the plan would hone in on job growth, so-called “equitable development,” small business growth, and neighborhood revitalization. And they’re putting in more than $8 million of the $177 million the city is getting from the Biden administration under the American Rescue Plan.
Under this plan, the White House money would go out to small business grants over the next three months.
That comes as the New Jersey Performing Arts Center – an anchor institution in New Jersey’s largest city – plans its own neighborhood redevelopment east of the performance center, according to a report by NJ.com
Kleen Kutz Beauty Salon in Newark, where the June 24 press announcement took place, was one of the first recipients of a prior city grant coming out of the city’s tranche of federal dollars.
The city estimated that between February and May last year, at the height of the most intensive COVID-19 business closures, as many as 16,000 residents were without employment.
Sectors like hospitality, health care, social services and retail – anchor employers in the Brick City – accounted for 60% of the city’s job losses.
Predominately Black and Brown cities – including Newark – have seen some of the worst economic impacts of the pandemic, according to social advocacy groups. That includes a more profound closure rate among businesses and tougher access to federal COVID-relief for employers.
Programs such as the $100 million NJ FAM Fund are meant to steer more of those dollars into minority-owned businesses and finance Black and Brown-owned real estate projects.
“We have to focus on our strengths: supporting our small businesses, building along our neighborhood corridors and really working with the people in the City of Newark so that we all can recover together,” Allison Ladd, the Newark Economic and Housing Development Director, said during last Thursday’s press conference.
Newark officials plan to use $1.27 million of those funds to hire 14 additional staff, which would include “Newark Business Navigators” to help connect business owners with those federal funds the city is providing.
Official citywide surveys showed that 82% of Newark businesses felt that they need more direct communication with the city.