EDA’s $50M small business grant program will set aside $15M for firms in Opportunity Zones

The $50 million Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program that will be formally approved by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority on Friday morning will set aside $15 million specifically for companies located in Opportunity Zones, ROI-NJ has learned.

The set-aside is a way the program, which is an expanded version of the $5 million program the EDA offered in April, has been designed to reach a far greater number of small businesses, especially businesses in underserved communities.

Home-based businesses and sole proprietorships also will be eligible this time — another step toward increasing the program’s reach, ROI-NJ has learned.

The program will provide grants up to $10,000 for qualified businesses.

The decision to specifically include businesses in designated Opportunity Zone areas was saluted by Luis De La Hoz, the chair of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey.

“This is most needed,” he said. “More than 60% of our businesses have not been able to gain access to grants. This $15 million will be a big help.”

John Harmon, the CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, was thrilled.

“This is what we’ve been waiting to hear,” he said. “This is phenomenal; this is going to impact lives.

“When the governor talked about stronger and fairer — this speaks unequivocally to the fairer side.”

The Opportunity Zone program provides tax incentives for individuals who reinvest unrealized capital gains into high-impact, long-term projects in high-poverty communities across the country.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) was one of the co-sponsors of the bill.

Last week, Gov. Phil Murphy said the state was committing $50 million of the money it received from the CARES Act —with details to be determined by the EDA.

Those details —including how, when and where to apply — will become known later Friday. The EDA is holding a virtual board meeting at 10 a.m. to formally approve the program.

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