Ahead of applications opening the morning of Sept. 17 for $10.5 million of relief grants for businesses hit by Hurricanes Ida and Henri, state officials widely anticipate that they’ll need even more money to meet demand from employers.
“This is going to be a bridge of resources to keep you going,” said Tim Sullivan, head of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, which is overseeing the grant programs. “We know the damage is a lot more than $5,000.”
New Jersey’s congressional delegation is pushing for federal appropriations for grant money to businesses in the state, like had been done with Superstorm Sandy. But that faces an uncertain path, as noted by Sullivan.
Businesses in operation at least since August can get grants of between $1,000 and $5,000 which would, strictly speaking, reimburse them for rent or mortgage costs in August. With those funds freed up, business owners can in turn use them to pay for their recovery.
“We wanted to get resources out as quickly as possible,” Sullivan added, during a Sept. 14 morning webinar hosted by the NJEDA and the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.
The scope of the grants is by design, with its own limitations. Damage from power outages is not covered, and establishments that fully own the property where they’re based and by extension, do not pay rent or mortgage, are not eligible for any grants.
State officials expect a surge in applications once the window opens at 9 a.m. on Friday. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the NJEDA’s first rounds of grants saw thousands of more applicants for state relief than there were funds available for businesses.
For COVID-relief aid, the NJEDA ran three separate rounds of grant applications, with the last two rounds including priority for thousands of overflow applicants shut out from the prior round of grants.
Only 3,385 businesses were approved for less than $11 million in the first phase, followed by 19,054 businesses that got nearly $55 million in the second phase, 20,378 businesses that got a combined $145.2 million in the third phase, and 33,365 businesses that got approved for a combined $368.7 million of grants in the fourth phase, according to the NJEDA.
An NJEDA spokesperson noted that all eligible businesses that applied for COVID-relief grants were awarded those grants at some point between phases two and four.
And computer issues could very well plague this week’s application process, be it a problem with the state’s own computers, or the capabilities of the applicant’s equipment, said Patience Purdy, an NJEDA official involved with the aid program.
“When trying to purchase an Xbox for Christmas for one of our children, I was in there, and … had it in my cart … it was gone because somebody else’s system is just better and faster than mine,” she said.
Businesses in 11 counties struck the worst by this month’s storm are eligible for low-interest loans from the federal Small Business Administration to pay for physical damage to any products and brick and mortar operations, as well as business interruption from Ida itself.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency initially only included six counties, which state and local officials said left out other communities across the state heavily impacted by the storm. Now, any business in Bergen, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic, Union and Somerset counties can get this financing.
Businesses based out of counties surrounding those 11 can apply for the COVID-era SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans, which covers business interruption due to a natural disaster.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 7:37 a.m. EST on Sept. 15, 2021, to include the number of businesses that benefited, and the amount of money that was distributed in grants during, phase 4 of COVID-relief aid provided by the NJEDA; and to include remarks from a spokesperson for the organization that all eligible businesses that applied for COVID-relief grants were awarded those grants at some point between phases two and four.