Dawn M. Addiego
As we continue our efforts towards recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us tend to focus solely on the innumerable losses we have faced both individually and as a country. But we cannot bring back everything that was lost. Instead, we must shift our focus to look forward and grow from this tragedy.
The first step to moving forward is revitalizing our economy. Small businesses are the backbone of our downtown areas, providing jobs for individuals and economic growth throughout the State. Across the nation, small businesses represent 99% of all firms, which created 10.5 million new jobs between 2000 and 2019.
And while small businesses are a crucial part of the country’s economy, it has been estimated that approximately one-third of businesses that were open in the beginning of 2020 have now closed.
To emerge from the depths of the pandemic, we must invest in our state’s small businesses, both those pre-existing and new. Going forward, no more businesses should close due to the pandemic.
In June and July, we took two important steps to assist in the recovery of our small businesses. On June 22, Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation consisting of six bills that I championed. The package will provide $235 million in relief for small businesses and non-profits across the state. On July 21, Murphy signed additional legislation sponsored by state Sen. Linda Greenstein and me to provide $135 million more to small businesses.
This funding will allow the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to fulfill all eligible applications submitted during Phase IV of the NJEDA’s Small Business Emergency Grant Program. Additionally, a portion of the grant went towards the New Jersey Community Stage Relief Grant Program to assist for-profit establishments that host at least two live performances or events per week.
With this funding, we will be able to provide aid for businesses and non-profits who were hit the hardest by the pandemic, including bars, restaurants, and childcare facilities. Additionally, a portion of the funding is dedicated solely for new businesses, a way to encourage aspiring business owners to fill the vacant storefronts in our downtowns left empty due to COVID-19.
This funding is crucial for businesses as they make important decisions on reopening, staffing, and operating day-to-day services. We all want life to return to some sense of normalcy and this additional funding will bring us one step closer to achieving that goal as we near the light at the end of the tunnel.
To date, the NJEDA has distributed over $650 million in aid to tens of thousands of businesses across the state. This additional combined $370 million in funding will provide support to countless more businesses, ensuring everyone is well-positioned as we continue along the path of recovery.
This aid is only the start. Small businesses need our support more than ever, with our patronage being a critical step in revitalizing the small business community within New Jersey and beyond. I encourage all of you to seek out goods and services from local companies, as the only way we can bounce back from the pandemic is if we all support each other in the weeks and months ahead.
Stae Sen. Dawn Addiego, a Democrat, represents the 8th Legislative District, which includes parts of Burlington, Camden and Atlantic counties.