SPARTA, N.J. – Small businesses are struggling to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Assemblyman Parker Space. Many of New Jersey’s businesses were deemed non-essential and mandated to close or significantly cut back on operations by executive order.

“The coronavirus has wreaked havoc on local businesses as customers have stayed home or because the governor has shut it down to halt the disease’s spread,” said Space (R-Sussex). “We want to stop the spread of COVID-19, but at the same time we need to give businesses the opportunity to abide by social distancing protocols while still proving for customers, and most importantly their employees and New Jersey families.” 

Gov. Phil Murphy announced plans late afternoon to allow car sales, firearms sales, and home sales among others.  Several lawmakers issued a press statement calling on Murphy to reverse his decision last week.

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Space said this is a step in the right direction, after being contacted by one constituent who was forced to purchase a vehicle in another state.

“A nurse and long-time customer of mine totaled her vehicle and needed a new one. Her insurance company told her she only has five days to replace it before her rental stops,” explained Space. “Before today, she was going to have to go to a New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, or Connecticut dealership to purchase a car so she can get back to her nursing job.”

Restaurants were also forced to stop all dine-in services and go to a take-out only model. Servers, managers, dishwashers and other restaurant employees were laid off as a result. According to the latest numbers, more than 155,000 New Jerseyans have applied for unemployment benefits.

“I can’t imagine what we are going to do. I have a young family that relies on me waitressing full time to help pay the bills. I rely so much on the tip money to get my family by,” said Robin Marotta, a waitress who was laid off due to the coronavirus shutdown.

A fitness instructor from Franklin said his business will not survive past April. He said he can’t afford to keep paying staff who are part-time when he doesn’t have any cash flow.

Last week, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority announced a set of programs, including zero-interest loans, grants, and other aid, that could help an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 small- and mid-sized businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, even with a zero interest loans many businesses will be carrying unnecessary debt for the next 20 to 30 years, which has the potential to put them out of businesses. 

“New Jersey is one of the hardest places to survive as a small business as it is and the coronavirus is now making it near impossible. It’s hard for people to grasp what it takes to own a business that you put your heart and soul into only to have an uncertain future,” explained Space. “Our businesses should have the opportunity to follow safety guidelines in these trying times and still be allowed to stay open. I believe it’s far safer to venture into a small business then walk through the grocery store or a big box store.”