ELIZABETH, NJ - Small businesses in Union County will have a chance to benefit from $2 million in federal CARES Act funding being distributed by county government.

The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders on Monday announced the initial-round launch of the Union County COVID-19 Relief Grant Program for small businesses that have been impacted by the pandemic.

The grants are being provided to COVID-19 impacted businesses with 25 or fewer employees and will provide sums of up to $20,000 to cover three months of rent, property mortgage payments, utilities and insurance expenses, Union County Freeholder Chairman Al Mirabella said.

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“It’s a matter of economic survival, and it’s also a matter of economic recovery and healing for the whole community,” Mirabella said as the freeholders approved the grant program during a special meeting last week.

It is the first round of federal funding the Freeholder board is distributing, he said. The freeholders intend to provide additional grant opportunities specifically to minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, LGBT-owned businesses and veteran-owned businesses, Mirabella said.

Officials at Thursday’s special meeting said the county could have distributed the funding through the state’s Economic Development Authority but decided instead to keep the grant program in-house.

This is because the EDA caps individual grants at $10,000, Deputy County Manager Amy Wagner said. “Our thought was that wasn’t quite enough in most cases to really be able to be a significant assistance to a business that is struggling,” Wagner said.

Administering the grants through the EDA, she said, also would have required that 25% of the total funds go to businesses within urban enterprise zones.

“We wanted to be as broad as possible, to help as many people as possible, and do it in a significant way,” Wagner said.

The County of Union will begin accepting applications for the program through an online portal beginning Thursday, July 16, at 10 a.m. at www.ucnj.org/covid-grant. Questions about the County’s grant programs can be sent to Deana Mesaros dmesaros@ucnj.org.