The Murphy administration is adding $10.2 million to a grant program meant to help pandemic-battered businesses pay rent costs.
Under the state-run Small Business Lease Emergency Assistance Grant Program, businesses currently involved in the program can qualify for rent relief grants of up to $10,000, according to an Oct. 6 announcement from Gov. Phil Murphy’s office.
The goal of the aid, Murphy said, is to keep COVID-19-battered employers “afloat amid the turmoil of COVID-19.”
Businesses in some of the state’s 64 poorest communities are eligible. Places like Asbury Park, Atlantic City, Bayonne, Camden, Clifton, Elizabeth, Long Branch, Newark, New Brunswick and Trenton, according to the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority, which heads the program and handles financing for economic development projects in 64 those communities.
“This money … will go a long way toward helping them keep their doors open,” the governor continued. It’s coming out of the federal dollars the state got from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, a mammoth relief package then-President Donald Trump approved in March last year.
To date, the state has rolled out $700 million in COVID-relief to businesses, mostly through grants and low-interest loans provided by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.
The most recent funds from the NJEDA were $4.12 million to 26 arts and culture venues slammed by COVID-19 closures.
At the height of the COVID-19 closures between March and May, the economy was put into a near-total lockdown. Retail, dining, gyms, salons, spas, casinos, theaters and many other businesses were closed during that time, and then for the next year operated at extremely reduced capacity.
Unemployment levels rose to the highest points in decades amid those closures.
“This funding will allow the NJRA to work through our existing pipeline of existing applicants to provide grant funding to small businesses located in our eligible communities, who continue to feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” reads a statement from Leslie Anderson, head of the NJRA.