The Murphy administration is rolling out another $15 million in grants for small businesses that have seen their profits crater during the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic recession, though most of those funds will likely go toward the surge of wait-listed applicants from prior pools of aid.
All told, this comes out to $70 million of grants, capped at $10,000, for small-sized employers under the program operated by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. Eligibility is limited to businesses with up to 25 employees.
“Our small businesses are the backbone of our economy,” Gov. Phil Murphy said at the announcement Tuesday morning in North Brunswick. “Seeing both businesses and employees emerge from this pandemic strong and ready for the times ahead is critical for the success of … our restart and recovery.”
In the second half of March, Murphy enacted a host of sweeping restrictions that barred public gatherings, non-essential travel, and ordered most businesses to close their doors or dramatically scale back operations in a bid to deprive the virus of any in-person hosts.
Many businesses have laid off or furloughed staff in a bid to stay afloat. Others suspended all operations because of the state shutdown order, or tried to stay open at reduced capacity, but closed down once efforts proved to be unprofitable. Unemployment now stands at a record-high 16.6 percent as a result.
“We sought to help fill a void before our small businesses fell into a void,” Murphy said on Tuesday.
Last week, Murphy unveiled a $6 million pool of funds to help small businesses located in some of the state’s poorest towns and cities cover the costs of rent.
All told, the state aid given out by the state via the NJEDA clocks in at more than $44 million, the Murphy administration said on Monday. The agency awarded nearly $33 million in grants to 7,032 separate businesses, averaging $3,000, and closed on 76 low-interest loans totaling $5.1 million to small employers.
The aid programs, like their federal counterpart, the U.S Small Business Administration’s forgivable loan program, have been inundated with tens of thousands more applicants than there are funds available in the state’s pot of money.
Hanging by a thread, many business owners have complained about not receiving any federal or state aid.
A round of $45 million in grants saw more than 31,000 applicants, and over half of them were wait-listed for future rounds of funding–hence the additional $15 million.
“The money will go fast and it will go far,” NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan said on Tuesday. “We know that there is a significant need out there as this pandemic continues to be with us and the economic crisis continues to be a significant challenge.”
The money will come out of the roughly $2.6 billion allocated to New Jersey under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to help cushion many states from the virus’ financial blow.
Most of the federal aid goes towards financing state-level business relief, and to bolster local state’s health care infrastructure to respond to and contain the virus.