This article was updated on June 25, 2020.
What Is New Jersey Doing To Help?
New Jersey moved deftly in response to the COVID-19 outbreak and chose to use most of the existing emergency fund to bolster public health efforts by investing in hospitals and other medical infrastructure.
Unfortunately, this left them with a dearth of resources to be used in the long-term effort to stabilize a plummeting economy. However, resources have become available by way of funding from the federal government and other organizations beyond the purview of the state.
Now, the highest priority is to ensure that those who need it are made aware and able to gain access to it.
What Types of Programs Are Being Offered By The Federal Government?
Under the umbrella of the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security), over $2 trillion dollars in funding has been made available to state governments in order to help combat the various health and economic concerns that have arisen as a result. Of this sum, about $350 million is designated to help stimulate state and local economies, purportedly from the ground up.
The second round of relief came in a $484 billion dollar package, with $310 billion going to replenish the quickly depleted Paycheck Protection Program.
The solution is designed to keep all those unemployed during the pandemic afloat, along with the businesses that previously employed them, to ensure that we have a workplace and a workforce available and ready when it becomes safe to resume business.
So, what kind of resources are available, and how can individuals and businesses access them?
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
The largest emergency relief fund is the PPP, which is designed to help small businesses keep employees on the payroll by providing funds for this purpose expressly. The best feature of the program is that, while it is issued as a loan which must be paid back over time, you have the ability to convert it to a grant by fulfilling a few simple conditions.
- You must retain ALL employees on the payroll for an 8 week period.
- You must use these funds for ONLY the following purposes:
- Payroll disbursements
- Rent payments
- Mortgage interest
- Utility costs
The wonderful part about a grant is, simply, that you are not required to pay it back. However, failure to adhere to the guidelines listed above will disqualify your business from converting the PPP loan to a grant, and require you to pay it back later.
Thankfully, congress passed the new PPP Flexibility Act of 2020 in June, making it easier to spend funds and receive loan forgiveness.
Other Federal Funding
In addition to the potential grant awards you may apply for under the PPP, there are a number of other resources available to help fund your local business in the form of grants and low interest loans. Some of these include:
- Emergency Economic Injury Loan – Qualifying applicants may be awarded this grant to help cover costs not outlined under the PPP. Great if you need a small injection of capital right away.
- Small Business Association Express Bridge Loan – This SBA loan is available to businesses of qualifying size and scope. It is designed to inject smaller sums of capital into local businesses, to be repaid at a later time.
- Small Business Debt Relief Program – Under this program, those who qualify may be granted relief of debt incurred through an existing Small Business Association Loan. Once you have been awarded an SBA loan, you will be eligible to apply for this relief pending fulfillment of conditions outlined therein.
The unfortunate truth about federal assistance programs is that they have proven sluggish in their delivery, so you may also need to rely on other resources to keep your business afloat. In New Jersey, the NJEDA has launched programs specifically designed to make an impact at the local level.
They offer an array of small grants and loans which can be delivered swiftly along with assistance on how to apply for them and other forms of guidance.
COVID-19 in New Jersey
In the weeks since the state instituted aggressive social distancing measures to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, the number of new cases has begun to decline. While the short-term institution of quarantine regulations was necessary for public health purposes, it also caused the economy to come to a near standstill.
Over a million Garden State residents have filed unemployment claims since the beginning of the pandemic. States with high population densities have, so far, been hit the hardest in terms of both infection rate and impact on state and local economies. The state’s automated system was initially slow to process unemployment claims. However, by late May, more eligible Garden State residents were receiving benefits. The number of new weekly claims is beginning to fall.
Yet there is a long path for the state’s economic recovery. Over the last couple of years, funds originally slated for emergency preparedness have been appropriated to fortify state social security and other measures.
This left the state’s emergency coffers threadbare, and at the worst possible time.
Thankfully, there has been some localized nonprofit support for businesses. Detailed by the Center for Non-Profits, there are numerous responses set up by New Jersey funders. To find support in your local region, check through the section labeled, “Funding: NJ Relief Funds and Philanthropic Response.” Certain funds are allocated specifically for small businesses in New Jersey.
Reopening Businesses in New Jersey
In late May, New Jersey began to reopen beaches and public parks in advance of Memorial Day Weekend. The state will continue to reopen as it meets health and safety criteria. Stages for opening businesses include:
- Stage One – Resumption of curbside pickup, construction, and some outdoor businesses by June 1
- Stage Two – Outdoor dining, childcare, and personal services businesses open starting June 15th
- Barbershops, tattoo parlors, and nail salons reopen June 22nd
- Youth camp and in-person education resume July 6th
- Stage Three – Most work allowed with additional safety measures (starting date not yet announced)
- New Normal – In-person work resumes fully after the development of a vaccine
As businesses reopen, they are expected to comply with state and federal guidelines on social distancing. Bars, restaurants, and personal services businesses (e.g., salons and barbers) must operate at reduced capacity. In addition, all businesses must:
- Ensure employees wash their hands
- Require or encourage customers to wear masks (in line with state guidelines)
- Disinfect all surfaces regularly
That said, be sure to check in with your local county business office—certain counties may have different rules and regulations with regards to reopening.
Nextdoor: The Community Hub
Another resource available to help local businesses and the neighbors is Nextdoor, a neighborhood hub that offers an online forum to share news, information, and offer services at a local level. It’s important, at a time like this, to engage with your immediate community in an effort to share everyday solutions to issues as they arise.
Nextdoor provides a platform for you and your community members to do just that.
Statista. Predicted Unemployment Higher Than Great Depression. https://www.statista.com/chart/21329/highest-unemployment-rates-ever/
Small Business Administration. Paycheck Protection Program. https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program
U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. The Small Business Owner’s Guide to the CARES Act. https://www.sbc.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/2/9/29fc1ae7-879a-4de0-97d5-ab0a0cb558c8/1BC9E5AB74965E686FC6EBC019EC358F.the-small-business-owner-s-guide-to-the-cares-act-final-.pdf
NJ.com. Another 140K N.J. workers file for unemployment as coronavirus total tops 850K. https://www.nj.com/coronavirus/2020/04/another-140k-nj-workers-filed-for-unemployment-last-week-as-coronavirus-total-tops-850k.html
New Jersey Policy Perspective. The COVID-19 Crisis Proves the Point: New Jersey Needs More Revenue to Support Workers, Families, and Businesses. https://www.njpp.org/budget/the-covid-19-crisis-proves-the-point-new-jersey-needs-more-revenue-to-support-workers-families-and-businesses
NJ.com. NK reveals multi-stage coronavirus reopening plan. https://www.nj.com/coronavirus/2020/05/nj-reveals-multi-stage-coronavirus-reopening-plan-were-in-stage-1-murphy-says.html
NJ.com. N.J. to borrow $1.7B from feds to pay unemployment benefits. https://www.nj.com/coronavirus/2020/06/nj-to-borrow-17b-from-feds-to-pay-unemployment-benefits.html
Investopedia. Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020. https://www.investopedia.com/paycheck-protection-program-flexibility-act-of-2020-an-overview-4846944
If you are a local business, claim your free Business Page to get started on Nextdoor. Resources on how to use Nextdoor to stay connected with your local customers during coronavirus, pertinent news affecting businesses, and more, are available in our Small Business Guide for Coronavirus Relief.