NJ to provide another $60M to businesses hit by COVID-19 (updated)

Daniel J. Munoz//November 11, 2020//

NJ to provide another $60M to businesses hit by COVID-19 (updated)

Daniel J. Munoz//November 11, 2020//

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New Jersey will be offering more than $60 million in grants for businesses forced to close or drastically curtail operations because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Phil Murphy said on Tuesday.

That comes after more than 13,000 businesses were closed out of a prior round of grant funding last month, according to Tim Sullivan, chief executive officer of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, which oversees the program.

Almost 22,000 businesses applied for state aid, the governor’s office said in a Wednesday statement, and so the vast majority of grants would go toward those waitlisted employers.

Tim Sullivan, far right, attends Gov. Phil Murphy's signing of an executive order more than doubling New Jersey’s offshore wind goal on Nov, 19, 2019 at Liberty Science Center in Jersey City. (Edwin J. Torres/Governor’s Office)
Tim Sullivan

Under this new announcement, those businesses could get the funding in the “next few weeks,” Sullivan said on Twitter, “with a significant focus on ensuring those dollars get where they’re needed most – restaurants, micro-businesses and minority and women-owned firms.”

“This is not going to solve all of our challenges,” Murphy said Tuesday night on WBGO’s “Ask Governor Murphy” segment.

But the aid “will allow us to get to every single eligible applicant from last month’s announcement.”

The prior round of funding, announced in October, came out to $70 million. Half of that was geared toward restaurants, and $15 million toward micro-businesses, which have up to five employees.

This new round also includes set-asides for restaurants and micro-businesses, while a third of the $60 million will go toward businesses in one of the state’s 715 communities that were submitted as potential federal Opportunity Zones.

Only 169 communities became Opportunity Zones, and businesses can get tax breaks for investing in projects and developments in those communities.

Businesses that received prior grant funding could apply for another round of aid.

Smaller businesses would get grants at roughly $5,000, while businesses with closer to 50 employees would get grants up to $15,000.

Roughly 14,000 businesses applied for NJEDA grants from a $45 million pool of money an hour after applications opened in July.

“The response was, not surprisingly, overwhelming, and we received a lot more applicants than the $70 million can cover,” the governor added Tuesday night.

Hundreds of thousands of mom and pop shops and Main Street businesses across the state had to shutter their doors during the height of the pandemic between March and May. That included gyms, nail and hair salons, sit-down restaurants and non-essential retail. Their closures triggered record-high unemployment.

They’ve been allowed to reopen albeit at reduced capacity, but many fear how will stay afloat during the winter, especially with colder weather rendering most outdoor dining arrangements obsolete.

And now with New Jersey in a second wave of COVID cases, Murphy signed an order Nov. 10 prohibiting bar-seating and forcing indoor dining to cease operations after 10 p.m. He’s warned that more restrictions could be forthcoming, depending on how the spread of the virus fares.

The order goes into effect Nov. 12, but any impact would not be seen for at least two weeks.

All told, the Murphy administration allocated $250 million toward a variety of business COVID-relief, including grants, low-interest loans, and loan guarantees to entice investors to continue backing start-ups, Sullivan said.

State officials approved grants for 873 businesses as of Wednesday, totaling just shy of $11 million.

As of Oct. 8, the state dolled out over $52 million in grants to 18,875 businesses and approved $10.2 million in loans to 148 businesses.

Beginning Nov. 10, the state agency let businesses with up to 100 employees apply for discounts of up to 25% to buy personal protective equipment like gloves and masks from certain, pre-vetted vendors.

That aid program includes a $20 million subsidy to take care of costs for small businesses to purchase PPE, which businesses need to have on hand in order to stay open during the pandemic.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated on Nov. 11, 2020 at 3:15 p.m. EST to add details from the governor’s office.