CAMDEN, NJ — Rainy day funds are needed across Camden County by small businesses more than ever with the coronavirus pandemic putting many in the red, wiping out customer traffic and forcing layoffs.
Which is why it couldn’t have been more appropriate Thursday, as local officials gathered in Collingswood, that a downpour came rushing in minutes into a press conference to announce the launch of emergency grants.
“We're receiving applications as we speak at a feverish pitch,” Freeholder Director Lou Cappelli said standing in front of Kitchen and Associates on Haddon Avenue.
By 1 p.m. — five hours after the portal became live — more than one thousand applicants had submitted for as much as $10,000 each from the $20 million pot, according to Camden County External Affairs Manager Kyle Sullender.
“As the pandemic hit New Jersey all of South Jersey businesses were shut down, no one is complaining that that was absolutely the right thing to do, but our small business community — that is the backbone of our economy — were forced to shut their doors. And these are the folks that need assistance more than anyone else,” said Christina Renna, President and CEO of the South Jersey Chamber of Commerce.
Funding will be prioritized toward businesses who have not received financial assistance through other state or federal means — although all businesses are encouraged to apply. During the briefing, Cappelli said that so far Camden City was the second highest municipality among applicants, led by Cherry Hill.
"This is just the very first step in reopening up...to make sure that our small businesses have an opportunity to flourish and to get back online," said Freeholder Jonathan Young.
Any small business in the county interested in applying can call (833) 487-0462 or visit www.camdencountycares.com (qualifications listed below).
“Our biggest role in this initiative is to make sure that the businesses that may not know about it are informed,” Ray Jones of the Camden Business Association (CBA) told TAPinto Camden. “We have our finger on the pulse, particularly for businesses in the city of Camden.”
Jones said outreach is taking place through social media, email, phone calls and in-person promotion. He added that the Latin American Economic Development Association (LAEDA) has also been on hand to help spread knowledge of the program to the Latin community and others in need.
Yolanda Deaver, owner of Prissy Chic Salon in Camden, said money from the grant program would make it possible for her to stay afloat for three months or so.
“This will help me pay my bills and help my kids...it’s devastating without any business or income to feed your family, it’s really hard,” said Deaver, who has been in the city for roughly five years.
Cappelli said the county will continue to work to seek funds. In the meantime, he hopes residents will do their part as well.
“I do it as much as I can...and I encourage everybody to shop local, it's so important,” he said.
The grant application will be open on a first-come first-serve basis, with Camden County accepting applications indefinitely. Large-scale franchises (those that are locally-owned can apply), banks or other financial institutions, e-commerce businesses and age-oriented businesses like vaping and liquor stores, will not be eligible for funds.
To qualify you must meet the following criteria:
Business revenue has been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic
The business has been located in Camden County since January 1, 2019 or earlier
The business employed 25 or fewer employees as of March 1, 2020
The business earned $5 million or less in total revenue during 2019