As the pandemic continues, many New Jersey businesses across the state that are struggling, especially smaller ones, are getting vital financial assistance through programs created and administered by the Department of Community Affairs.

Nineteen municipalities enrolled in the Neighborhood Preservation Program before the COVID health emergency began are sharing a total of $6.2 million in grant money provided through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

According to DCA Division of Housing and Community Resources Director Janel Winter, the money is distributed by NPP towns to businesses in their communities.

She said because the pandemic has cut down on walk-in traffic, many small businesses needed to expand their online presence, “so a lot of what was funded was assistance for groups in setting up that website, or administering that website so they were able to work online.”

In addition, she said “a lot of it is setting up outdoor or in-store hand sanitizing stations so that people can stay healthy in that way.”

She noted grant money has also helped restaurants purchase equipment like outdoor heaters, as well as tables and chairs, and funds have also been used to help businesses do marketing so people in the community can get updated about what steps are being taken to help keep them safe while shopping.

Winter said grant money has also been used for other COVID-related items, including “face shields, providing hand sanitizer, providing face masks, some of those social distancing stickers that you see on the floor that help show you how far apart to stand — all sorts of things that would just help businesses really stay safe and continue to do business during this time.”

She pointed out the municipalities themselves, not the DCA, determine how to allocate grants to their different businesses, because local leaders understand their local businesses best.

The Department of Community Affairs is also overseeing a Main Street New Jersey $3 million COVID-19 relief grant program that helps traditional Main Streets and business districts across the Garden State in a similar way.

Additionally the DCA is overseeing the awarding of $3.1 million in relief grants to non-profit organizations in communities that are part of the Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit program.

CARES money is funding COVID relief grant dollars for both of these programs.

The Neighborhood Preservation Program began in 1975 to encourage and promote the social and economic strengthening and development of neighborhoods, by giving towns flexible and creative options to help revitalize areas in decline.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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