As many as 5,000 small businesses in New Jersey could get funding through a half-dozen programs created Thursday by the state in an emergency response to the upheaval resulting from the novel coronavirus.

Initiatives include grants of up to $5,000 to small businesses with 10 workers or fewer, 10-year loans of up to $100,000 to small and mid-sized businesses that are interest-free through 2025, $250,000 grants to small lenders and loan supports for private lending to micro- and small businesses and entrepreneurs. (Click here for program details.)

Economic Development Authority chief executive officer Tim Sullivan said New Jersey obviously has seen significant job losses and business closures.

“There’s real pain in the economy right now, and I think everyone gets that from the governor on down,” Sullivan said. “And so what we wanted to do was get some resources ready to go and on the street as fast as we could because we know that these needs are now. Obviously, there’s hopefully help on the way from the federal government, in what they did in the stimulus bill, but we’ve got real pain right now. So we’re hoping to move this as quickly as we can.”

Sullivan said the programs are “going to have to be the first wave” but that they’re structured in a way that the federal funds that follow can be used to expand them, rather than start another program from scratch with new rules and applications.

“Get some money on the street, let’s start helping people as soon as we can, but also build programs that are scalable,” Sullivan said.

“As this goes on, my guess is we’re going to need substantially more,” he said. “This is a big first step, but certainly a first step.”

Gov. Phil Murphy said, including the private funds that the state’s $41.4 million in programs will leverage, around $75 million in support for businesses will be available through the program. The EDA says philanthropic and other funds could bring the eventual total to more than $100 million.

“The majority of New Jerseyans work for small businesses. So this isn’t just about supporting our small and mid-sized business owners, which it is. It’s also about supporting the men and women who work for them,” Murphy said. “Our recovery begins with our small businesses.”

The New Jersey Business and Industry Association said “these EDA programs and their immediacy will be of significant help” to small and medium-sized businesses and nonprofits.

The Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program will provide up to $5,000 in grants, equal to $1,000 per employee, for entities with 10 full-time equivalent employees or fewer. Of the $5 million in the program, $3 million is set aside for entities with five full-timers or fewer.

Participants in the program must have a physical commercial presence in New Jersey and be in one of the hardest-hit industries, such as retail, accommodation and food services, arts, entertainment and recreation and services such as repair, maintenance and laundry. Home-based businesses are not eligible at this time.

“It’s meant to be a bridge. It’s meant to be helping to maybe make this month’s rent or this month’s loan payment and hopefully keep employment steady if you can,” Sullivan said. “This is an unprecedented crisis for so many small businesses that are either closed or seeing significant decreases in revenue. It’s meant to help where it can, and I think it will probably fly off the shelves pretty quickly.”

Earlier this week, the U.S. Small Business Administration agreed offer low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital of up to $2 million to New Jersey small businesses hurt by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The coronavirus response bill passed Wednesday by the Senate and due for final approval Friday in the House of Representatives includes a "paycheck protection program" providing eight weeks of cash-flow assistance to small employers with 500 workers or fewer – a loan of up to $10 million that would convert to a grant for companies that maintain their payroll.

The federal bill also includes $10 billion for economic disaster loans, $17 billion to cover all costs on existing SBA loan products for six months and other efforts.

Enter your number to get our free mobile app

Sullivan said it’s unclear how long the shutdowns may last so not possible to say what else may be needed.

“Way too soon to know,” Sullivan said. “I think that’s first and foremost a public health question more than an economy question. The economy can heal when people heal and when the health system heals and not before then.”


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