The New Jersey Economic Development Authority is formally rolling out a $100 million program meant to support small employers and “microbusinesses” as they eye their COVID-19 recovery.
Employers will have more help to secure direct grants or less expensive loans to expand operations under the new state aid, fully titled the Main Street Recovery Finance Program.
Tim Sullivan, who heads the NJEDA, said in a statement after the Aug. 11 board approval for the program that it will “provide new resources tailored specifically to help business owners recover from the impacts of the pandemic and prepare for long-term success.”
There are several layers to the initiative, meant to offer aid to smaller-sized companies that might not have use for the mammoth tax breaks offered under the $14.5 billion landmark incentive program Gov. Phil Murphy approved in January.
That includes $10 million of grants to cover small businesses for their annual lease payments under the Small Business Lease Assistance Grant program, potentially doubled to $20 million. That aid could only go toward paying for the costs of renting between 250 and 10,000 square feet of new or added street-level commercial space.
The NJEDA will set aside $4 million for businesses based out of the state’s 715 poorest communities, known as Opportunity Zone eligible census tracts.
Another $15 million – potentially doubled to $30 million – would go toward “Small Business Improvement Grants,” which cover up to 50% of eligible business improvement costs going back to March 9, 2020 at the start of the pandemic.
Grants are capped at $50,000 and would compensate businesses for expenses such as the purchase and installation of new furniture, fixtures and equipment.
Businesses need to pay workers at least $15 an hour or 120% of the state $12 hourly minimum wage, whichever is greater. And they need to start at whatever facility they’ve moved into for however long is outlined in the grant agreement.
Over the course of the pandemic and related business closures and restrictions, NJEDA officials have approved hundreds of millions of dollars in grants and low-interest loans to help those establishments stay afloat.
Those will continue for the near future, with Gov. Phil Murphy having just approved a $135 million pool of grant funding, and the NJEDA rolling out a $17.5 million state subsidy program for COVID-hit live venues, and other related arts and culture establishments.