The Murphy administration is rolling out another $100 million of relief aid for businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, many of whom were forced to close for months on end or dramatically scale back operations.
Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday, at the Flounder Brewing Co. in Hillsborough, said the money would be vital to “keep our economic recovery moving” and to “help businesses get through this pandemic but emerge primed and ready for growth.”
The money is coming out of the state’s $2.3 billion federal COVID-19 relief aid, with the largest chunk of aid handled by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.
Earlier in the year, businesses such as restaurants, gyms, nail and hair salons, and non-essential retailers had to shut down or scale back operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Other businesses, like malls, theaters and casinos, also had to close down for several months, having just been allowed to reopen late in the summer.
Murphy said $70 million will go toward the small business grant program run by the NJEDA, of which $35 million goes toward the foodservice industry – like restaurants, bars and dining – and $15 million goes toward micro-businesses with up to five employees.
Many restaurants, while seeing varying degrees of success with outdoor, sit-down dining over the summer, have warily eyed how they will fare during the chilly weather of the fall and winter, which could render most outdoor dining arrangements useless.
Under the Tuesday announcement, another $10 million is going toward an NJEDA program to subsidize the cost of businesses to purchase personal protective equipment, such as gloves and facemasks, with an eye toward propping up New Jersey-based producers.
Tim Sullivan, the agency’s chief executive officer, said last week that upward of 55,000 applications have been processed by the NJEDA, compared to a “normal year” where it typically interacts with less than 500 companies for state financial assistance.
Roughly 14,000 businesses applied for NJEDA grants from a $45 million pool of money an hour after applications opened in July.
As of Oct. 9, the NJEDA approved 20,073 businesses for a combined $74.2 million of business relief, including grants, low-interest loans, and loan guarantees meant to offer a financial cushion for investors putting money into struggling startups.
“The economic impact of this pandemic is extraordinary and ongoing – and our efforts to do all we can to support small businesses must continue as well,” Sullivan said in a statement last week.
The administration announced a $6 million business rent relief program over the summer, run by the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority, for businesses situated in New Jersey’s lowest-income towns and cities.
Another $15 million is going toward that, while $5 million will go toward food banks, soup kitchens and other hunger relief programs, and $15 million toward rental assistance.