The millions that the Murphy administration set aside to help keep afloat small businesses slammed by the COVID-19 pandemic has been depleted.
The New Jersey Economic Development Authority ran out of money early Friday for its $5 million Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program – roughly an hour after the application went live.
“Due to high demand, this funding is exhausted, but submitting your application will ensure that if additional funds become available for this round of grant funding, you may be eligible,” reads the application page.
The funds were exhausted by 10:16 a.m. – that is, the exact point at which more businesses submitted applications than there were funds available – with 10,000 applications coming through, a number that ballooned to 16,000 as of 1:30 p.m., according to EDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan.
Grant approvals will be announced early next week, with checks to be electronically deposited by later in the week, Sullivan said.
Last month, lawmakers authorized the EDA to move $5 million of its own money to help smaller businesses that have either closed or will close soon as their customer base and revenues plummet amid the outbreak. Businesses with up to 10 employees are eligible, and grants vary in size from $1,000 to $5,000.
The agency anticipates awarding between 1,000 and 2,000 grants, depending on how many employees are at each company. Overflow applicants would effectively be wait-listed, and the first in line for any future grant programs out of the EDA.
“We were expecting to be oversubscribed, but didn’t think even in our wildest imagination, did we think it would go as quickly as it has,” Sullivan said at a Friday afternoon press conference in Trenton with Gov. Phil Murphy.
Applications are open through 9 a.m. on April 10, according to Sullivan, but “if it gets, incredibly, insanely oversubscribed we’ll probably close it prior to Friday.”
Another EDA program, the Small Business Emergency Loan Program, is a $10 million pool of money that provides loans of up to $100,000 a year for companies with revenue up to $5 million a year.
A sample application will be available on Monday and the application will go live a week later on April 13, which Sullivan said will grant businesses time to properly prepare submissions.
The grant and loan programs are part of a larger $40 million state aid from the EDA, which includes loans and loan guarantees, and hundreds of billions of dollars in grants, low-interest and forgivable loans, and other tax credits.
Businesses in the Garden State have either closed entirely by order of Murphy, or seen steep drops in patronage as millions of New Jerseyans opt to stay inside, all in an effort to avoid in-person contact which could carry the risk of spreading or contracting the virus.
Friday’s state aid program is not the only one dealing with headaches for business owners.
The U.S Small Business Administration’s applications went live for its $349 billion of COVID relief loans that same day, but in the preceding 24 hours many major participant banks said they were left widely unsure about many details of the programs.
And New Jersey’s unemployment system has been repeatedly hounded by technical issues and staffing shortages, as the state’s labor department handles record numbers of unemployment applications.
Editor’s note: This article was updated at 12:46 p.m. EST on April 3, 2020 to include the time that applications for the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program hit its max, and what that number was.
This article was updated at 2:53 p.m. EST on April 3, 2020 to include further details about applications for the Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program and comments from NJEDA CEO Tim Sullivan.