Bucco to Murphy: Underfunded small business grant program needs more CARES Act money

Phase 3 of grant program, set to receive $70M, will assuredly be oversubscribed

Sen. Anthony Bucco. (File photos)

For state Sen. Anthony Bucco, the solution to the math problem is obvious.

When he hears New Jersey Economic Development Authority officials tell small business owners that Phase 3 of its emergency business grant program will be oversubscribed, the answer is to have the state put more of the $2.4 billion in CARES Act funding it received into the pot.

Currently, $70 million will be available through three programs.

“During a webinar this morning, the EDA warned that Phase 3 of New Jersey’s emergency business grant program won’t have enough funding to meet the overwhelming demand for assistance,” Bucco (R-Denville) said.

“It’s evident that we’ll have many more small employers close their doors permanently if Gov. (Phil) Murphy doesn’t put more CARES Act funds behind this critically important program.”

Bucco said it doesn’t have to be this way. He points to other states, specifically citing Pennsylvania ($225 million of $2.6 billion in CARES Act aid) and South Dakota ($400 million of $1.25 billion) as two that have made more money available to small businesses.

New Jersey, it should be noted, already dedicated more than $50 million during Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the program — and those companies are eligible to apply again.

Bucco said Murphy is using $450 million in CARES Act money to help pay salaries of state workers.

“While the state of New Jersey isn’t in any danger of going out of business, Gov. Murphy is diverting huge chunks of New Jersey’s CARES Act funds to subsidize his administration,” he said. “At the same time, many of our downtown restaurants, Main Street shops and small employers are on the brink of permanent closure if they don’t get more aid.”

According to the EDA, more than 20,000 applicants have preregistered already for a chance to apply for Phase 3 funding for grants ranging from a maximum of $5,000 to a maximum of $20,000, depending on the size and type of business.

The state has made just $70 million available to fund the current grant program, but math says it would take at least $100 million of funding to provide the smallest, $5,000 grants to all 20,000 of the applicants.

The program will accept applications later this week from preregistered employers on a first-come, first-served basis.

Bucco said the state needs to step up even more.

“The governor needs to rethink his funding priorities and do it quickly,” he said.