PLAINFIELD, NJ — The Small Business Lease Emergency Assistance Program was recently announced by Gov. Phil Murphy, who said businesses and non-profits affected by COVID-19 in 64 municipalities, including Plainfield, will be eligible to participate. In all, $6 million will be distributed, with as much as $10,000 given to a business for rental payments. Since the announcement, updates have been made to the grant program.
The program was developed by the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority. Leslie Anderson, President & CEO of the NJRA, told TAPinto Plainfield a sample PDF application is available online for business owners to review, and said the application, available in both English and Spanish, will go live on Monday, August 10 at 9 a.m. Anderson also said the program guidelines have been translated into 11 languages.
The grants are on a first-come, first-served basis, and are meant for businesses with 5,000-square-feet of leased space or less. Grants will be provided to:
- Tenants leasing commercial space in mixed-use buildings
- Tenants leasing space in commercial buildings
- Tenants leasing space to operate a storefront business
Anderson noted they ran into "a glitch with the Division of Taxation." Previously, a business had to have a tax clearance certificate in order to apply for the program, or it would have 72 hours to obtain it from the time the application was submitted. "We have now reversed that position," she said, adding the NJRA will work in partnership with Taxation to resolve the issue for the business.
The only documentation business owners need in order to apply is a copy of a fully executed lease signed by their landlord.
The application will require owners to share how COVID-19 has impacted their business, Anderson said, such as closure by Executive Order. "Even if their business did not have to close, I think most businesses could demonstrate that there was a reduction in sales," citing examples like restaurants that can only offer curbside pickup, and stores and offices that are only allowed a certain number of people inside.
"This program is designed for small businesses in urban areas" that have suffered, like those along East and West Front Street, Watchung Avenue, Park Avenue, and Second Street in the Queen City. Anderson said they are also looking to support businesses along South Avenue.
"So we want to encourage businesses to apply, and that's the good news. The bad news is that the program is capped at $6 million." She stated the automated system will alert business owners if they are wait-listed.
"However, we want businesses to keep applying because we want to make a case to the Governor and the Lt. Governor that the need is still there. And if there are financial resources available, we want to be able to demonstrate that pipeline, so we could secure additional funds in support of the program."
She stressed the funds that will be dispersed are grant money, not a forgivable loan. Businesses can receive up to $10,000, and the funds do not have to be paid back. Business owners have to sign a grant agreement with NJRA, landlords have to sign a certification, and then the rent payments will be transferred directly into the landlords' accounts.
Applicants must provide verification from the landlord that the business was in good standing prior to March 9, 2020, when the Governor issued his first Executive Order related to COVID-19.
Anderson said business owners do not have to be behind in their rent to be eligible. Some business owners may have used their savings; the program can pay the rent moving forward, "to allow the business to redirect resources that they have to get their business back open and functioning, and not have to worry about their rent payment."
The NJRA is an independent authority that was established in 1996 through legislation. Its primary focus is redevelopment projects. In Plainfield, Anderson said, the NJRA played a role in ABC Supply and the housing at the corner of Grant and South 2nd Street, and partnered with the Housing Authority on Elmwood Gardens.
Anderson, who grew up in Plainfield and still lives here, said she worked for the city before she left to become a policy advisor to then Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. Following that, she joined the NJRA at its establishment as the Deputy Executive Director, and she is now the President & CEO.
"I pride myself on helping the redevelopment authority to focus on impact, and to be in communities first that are, very often, from an investment and a financial impact aspect, overlooked."
Anderson said she is a product of the Plainfield Public School system, and she graduated from Plainfield High School; she wears that fact with pride. She wants today's students to know, "They said terrible things about us when I was in high school; just keep going, because you never know where you can end up, and you, too, can become a President & CEO, despite the naysayers and the negative feedback, and sometimes the toxic things that people can say about you."
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