At a time when money is short and needs — and requests — are high, Middlesex County is making sure its small business community isn’t overlooked.
The county announced it is committing $30 million from its CARES Act money to small businesses in the county, and doing so with a program that could provide as much as $30,000 to individual businesses.
The grants are meant to reimburse costs and loss of revenue associated with adopting business operations in a post-COVID-19 environment. They represent the highest amount any county has made available to its small business community.
Freeholder Director Ronald Rios said the county wanted to make a statement of support.
“My colleagues and I on the Board of Chosen Freeholders recognized the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic presents our small business community,” he told ROI-NJ. “We’ve enjoyed strong partnerships with our business community, which is the backbone of our county’s economy and our economic growth.
“As a county, we felt it was important to commit this $30 million to support our community and build a bridge for our businesses to move forward during this trying time.”
Freeholder Deputy Director Kenneth Armwood, chair of the Business Innovation, Education and Opportunity Committee, agreed. He said the impact on small business has not subsided.
“As the state eases restrictions surrounding COVID-19 closures, our small businesses are continuing to struggle and feel the impacts that this global health pandemic has had in our own backyard,” he said. “It is imperative now and moving forward that our community supports small businesses in any way they can.”
The county began taking applications for the grants this week. They will go out on a first-come, first-serve basis. The county hopes to fund at least 1,000 small businesses in its region.
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“The county is committed to helping our small business owners who are the lifeblood of our communities and our local economy,” Rios said.
To be clear, businesses must show they have need — as well as show how much funding they have received from other sources.
County officials said they entered into a public-private partnership with an external auditing firm, DeLuca Advisory Services, as well as Magyar Bank, which, along with the county, will certify the accuracy and validity of the applications, which will include cross-checking for other COVID-19 funding received. As part of the application process, the small businesses must identify all other funds received from federal, state and local agencies.
All applicants must submit applications that meet the following criteria to be eligible for the grant:
- Independently or family-owned businesses with no more than 50 employees;
- Documented business interruption as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and related emergency declaration, resulting in financial loss;
- Businesses must have been opened prior to Dec. 31, 2019, and operating on March 1, 2020;
- Businesses deemed “nonessential” within the classification of “Businesses Required to Close” as per the Governor’s Executive Order No. 104, dated March 16, 2020;
- Must be a sole proprietorship, LLC/LLP, S-corporation, corporation, nonprofit or partnership;
- Active businesses physically located in Middlesex County, with a net annual business income of less than $1 million, based on their 2019 federal tax return.
Nonprofits are only eligible for reimbursement of increased incurred expenses, not loss of revenue.
Freeholder Leslie Koppel, who chairs the finance committee, said small businesses have been one of the hardest-hit populations in Middlesex County’s communities — and said the county needed to step up in a big way.
“We applaud our small business owners for the strength they have displayed throughout these difficult times,” she said. “We are proud to offer support to our neighbors with the distribution of these CARES Act Small Business Relief Grants.”
County officials said the individual grant amount will be based on application review on a first-come, first-served basis. The application process will remain open until all funds are distributed. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed and will not be given consideration. An incomplete application is considered to be one that has not uploaded all requested documents or answered all required questions within the portal.