HILLSBOROUGH — Elected officials detailed the ways an additional $100 million in federal CARES Act funds will be allocated to economic recovery programs, in a Tuesday visit to Flounder Brewing Co.

Gov. Phil Murphy said $70 million will be distributed to small businesses through the state Economic Development Authority in the third phase of an emergency assistance grant program that has helped 19,000 businesses to date. Eligibility will be expanded to businesses with up to 50 employees.

Half of that money, $35 million, will be set aside for restaurants and bars, and $15 million will be set aside for businesses with five employees or fewer. The other $20 million will be generally available to eligible businesses. One-third of each pool will go to businesses in designated opportunity zones.

“All of this will help us keep our economy moving ahead and our families working, even as we continue our work to not only defeat the virus but to deliver even more critical aid to our families and our small businesses,” Murphy said.

The balance of the funds announced Tuesday include $10 million to help businesses with 100 employees or fewer buy personal protective equipment at a discount, $15 million to help renters and landlords by helping cover rent due through December and $5 million for food banks and other hunger relief efforts.

“This will help serve those who need it most – our small businesses, our Main Streets and our tenants,” Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver said.

Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said the allocation is what he and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, had been hoping for – “that we would focus on our small businesses, our restaurants, to ensure that we help them further along the line.”

“This goes right at the heart of one of the most pressing issues we have right now, is helping our small businesses survive,” Sweeney said.

Coughlin said restaurants are important to the fabric of New Jersey’s economy.

“We know the recovery is going to come,” Coughlin said. “By doing this, the hole that we have to dig out will be a little less deep and the recovery will be more profound.”

The funding for the programs comes from the state’s Coronavirus Relief Fund established by the CARES Act, which received $2.39 billion in funding. Two congressional Democrats from New Jersey took part in the news conference and emphasized their support for another round of aid for businesses, individuals and state and local governments.

“We need to do so much more,” said U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez. “This bill was never supposed to be our last legislative response to the worst pandemic in a hundred years.”

“The latest from the president is he says, ‘Go big or go home,’” said U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J. 7th District, referring to one of President Donald Trump’s Tuesday morning tweets. “I take that as a good sign and as an affirmation of our strategy of holding out for something that will help the state of New Jersey.”

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Republicans have criticized Murphy for taking too long to distribute the federal aid. The administration has said it was awaiting clarifications from the federal government. The state has until Dec. 31 to use the money, though some bills can be paid as late as March.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.

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