Mom and pop shops aiming to recover and grow following the COVID-19 pandemic can start applying this week for a $10 million pot of money meant to help with rent costs.
Under the state-run Small Business Lease Grant Program, businesses can get grants covering up to 20% of their rent costs if they enter a new lease – or amend their existing lease – for at least 250 square feet of street-level rental space.
Applications open in the morning on Oct. 20, on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The state will set aside $4 million for businesses located in one of the New Jersey’s Opportunity Zone eligible areas, which represent some of the most impoverished communities in the state.
“This targeting will help to ensure resources are available to minority- and women-owned entities and communities that have faced disproportionate burdens as a result of COVID-19,” reads the Oct. 18 announcement from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, which is running the program.
State officials estimate that the state has rolled out more than $700 million in COVID-relief to businesses, mostly through grants and low-interest loans provided by the NJEDA.
The most recent funds released were $4.12 million to 26 arts and culture venues slammed by COVID-19 closures.
And a similarly named program – the Small Business Lease Emergency Assistance Grant Program – provides grants of up to $10,000 for COVID-hit employers to cover their rent costs.
This new rental assistance program is financed by the Main Street Recovery Fund, a $100 million pool of state funds meant to help mom and pop shops and other small employers recover from the pandemic, which itself is part of the mammoth $14.5 billion state incentive program.
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.
The massive economic incentive package was rushed through the state Legislature last winter in an effort to guide the state’s economic recovery from the pandemic.
So far, two major tax break awards have been announced, including a $109 million incentive for fintech giant Fiserv.