HOBOKEN, NJ - U.S. Senator Bob Menendez visited Hoboken Wednesday to announce $1.9 million in federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act specifically for the community's small businesses. Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise and Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla joined the Senator and a number of other local political dignitaries outside bwè kafe’s location near the 14th Street Viaduct, to discuss plans for addressing the needs of the city’s crucial commercial lifeblood.

“Our small businesses are hurting. Many that have reopened aren’t yet at full capacity. And relieving some of the burden will only help small businesses and, ultimately, our economy recover,” said Sen. Menendez. “New Jerseyans are tough and resilient. We don’t back down from any fight and whatever knocks us down only makes us stronger. Together, I am confident we’ll get through this and see brighter days ahead.”

Hoboken was among the first cities in the country to shutter its bars, restaurants and businesses in the face of the growing Coronavirus pandemic. While those steps set the tone for much of the response nationwide, the impact on those businesses over the past four months has been devastating. CARES funding announced Wednesday will provide up to $20,000 to any Hoboken-based business seeking aid to cover salary payments for employees, mortgage payments business loan payments; equipment leases, finance payments or utility payments incurred as the recovery process carries on.

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"As we continue with our emergency relief efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m extremely grateful to our federal and county officials for allocating funding for our City and small businesses,” said Mayor Bhalla. “This will not only allow us to fund important resources including expanded testing to keep our residents safe, it also provides critical grants for our small businesses who have been severely impacted over the past several months. Thank you to Senator Menendez, Congressman Sires, County Executive DeGise, and Freeholder Romano for working with my office over the past three months throughout the pandemic, and providing much-needed CARES Act funding to our City.”

The City of Hoboken is also eligible for up to $5.5 million in reimbursements from the CARES Act for COVID-19 related expenses, including expanded testing, food for seniors, disinfecting public buildings and more. To date, Sen. Menendez and Rep. Sires have reportedly helped secure a total of $117 million in CARES Act funding for Hudson County.

“Hoboken’s dynamic small business community has long been a leading driver of economic growth in Hudson County,” said County Executive DeGise. “That is why we are so pleased to offer Mile Square City business owners our County Small Business COVID19 Recovery Program, funded by Federal CARES Act dollars secured by Senator Menendez. I know Mayor Bhalla and the City Council will help their small business community take full advantage of what it offers to help them recover.”

Hoboken launched its own Economic Recovery Task Force back in May, aimed at helping small businesses navigate the recovery process.

“The CARES Act was a lifeline for small businesses like us to be able to restart, employ and do what we are passionate about: serving communities,” said bwè kafe’s Tatsuaki Mori-Ryan, who serves on the task force. “When the PPP loans came in, a weight was lifted off our shoulders. We immediately contacted our managers and reached out to team members to invite them back on the schedule. We figured out a game plan that kept everyone inside at a distance from each other and in a way that everyone felt was as safe as possible. But, we are still struggling. We are thrilled to hear that Hoboken was awarded another $2 million to help small businesses survive through this time and will be applying for this grant to offset some costs.”

In addition, the Hoboken Relief Fund was established as a means to invest in the local economy and help small businesses. To date, they have raised over $350,000 via online donations and initiatives to promote Hoboken’s #LoveLocal message, encouraging residents to support area commerce.

“I am so pleased to see money coming to our Hoboken small businesses,” said Council President Jen Giattino, who also serves as the co-chair of the Hoboken Relief Fund. “Thank you to all who made this possible, and I am hopeful that this is a way to help bridge the economic loss that so many are facing due to the pandemic. I look forward to continuing to work with our small business owners to help in every way we can as a City.”

There is still plenty of work to be done to keep local communities vibrant, officials said. Senator Menendez spoke of the need for greater federal assistance for state and local governments, as they experience rising costs and dipping revenues since the pandemic began. In May, he introduced the State and Municipal Assistance for Recovery and Transition (SMART) Act, a bipartisan $500 billion bill that would deliver emergency funding to every state, county and community in the country, while prioritizing assistance to the areas with the greatest need. It is estimated that Hoboken would receive about $30 million from the SMART Act, which would help the city expand testing, maintain essential services and avoid layoffs.

“Without help from Washington, they will have no choice but to raise taxes, cut essential services and lay off workers,”Menendez said. “We’re talking about first responders, teachers, public health and sanitation workers. It would be the height of irony—and a horrible one at that—for the men and women we’ve needed most at this critical time to be the ones fired as a result of the economic distress that the virus has created.”

The City of Hoboken has already seen layoffs of municipal workers, while others have been given early retirement.

“The COVID-19 national emergency has disrupted daily lives of Hoboken residents and our business community in unprecedented ways,” said Hudson County Freeholder Anthony Romano. “For a small business, knowing you will be paid in a timely manner is essential to maintaining operations, particularly as these companies face uncertainties surrounding the progress of the virus and the duration of emergency measures. As a small business owner myself, I understand the pressure and stress generated from this pandemic. I am sure that the small business community appreciates the time and efforts to secure the funding at the federal level.”

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