MIDDLETOWN, NJ — Economic relief grants were awarded to 29 local businesses and nonprofits who qualified and applied for the Middletown Economic Relief Program (MERP). On February 9th the Middletown Township Committee ceremoniously presented 8 small businesses with a check for $15,000: All Natural Dry Cleaners, Code Ninjas, Greens & Grains, Middletown Pancake House, Monmouth Museum, No Limits Cafe, Rock’n Music Academy, and Zeek’s Tees.

Of the 29 small businesses that applied, $422,500 was awarded, 26 were awarded $15,000, and the other three were awarded $10,000, $10,500, and $12,500, amounts applied for by the business owners. The relief program was launched in October 2020 to help provide financial assistance to eligible small businesses and non-profit organization in the municipality that have been affected by the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

MERP's funding was provided through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Department of Housing and Urban Development via the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG-CV) Program. After the ceremonial check presentations February 9th, the MERP funding was then officially approved at the Tuesday, February 16th Township Committee meeting, where it was announced that 29 small businesses and non-profit organizations across town will be awarded $422,500 through this initiative.

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Shortly after the MERP press conference was held on October 15, 2020, Middletown-based businesses and non-profit organizations that fit the criteria outlined by Township Administration and the Planning & Community Development Department were invited to apply for the grant. 

“During this challenging environment, we are very excited to be able to provide some financial assistance to our dedicated and hard-working small business owners who continue to serve our community as well as employ locally,” said Mayor Tony Perry.

Business owners and nonprofits have expressed their gratitude. “Like many small business, we are still recovering from the effects of the 2020 shut down and capacity restrictions due to COVID,” said Stadi Sinclair, owner of Code Ninjas (498 NJ-35, Union Square Shopping Center). “Having lost over 60% of our customers, the MERP grant will provide a financial safety net that will us allow us to pay staff and operational costs while we rebuild and regain students.”

Deputy Mayor Rick Hibell is a business owner and understands first-hand the financial burden this pandemic has had on community. “This is one way we are able to give back to our small business owners who have been putting their heart and soul into trying to adapt to the continuous blows COVID has dealt.”

Small business owners who have been awarded funds through MERP have expressed how this financial assistance can help them meet the challenges presented by the pandemic. 

“This financial relief will give us the opportunity to rebuild our student base and move forward in our 15th year of offering music instruction in Middletown,” said Howard L. Edwards Jr., owner, Rock’n Music Academy (500 NJ-35, Union Square Shopping Center).