Bipartisan Senate group pushing for additional $300M for small business relief

It’s been common theme during pandemic — but, this time, it has extra firepower: Sweeney is co-sponsor

Sen. Steven Oroho’s never-ending quest to help give additional funds to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic continued Thursday, when he was part of a bipartisan group to sponsor a bill that allocated $300 million to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority for additional emergency grants and loans to small businesses and nonprofit organizations.

At a time when money is tight, Oroho (R-Sparta) said the funds are there, courtesy of three buckets:

  1. Money the state borrowed as a slush fund;
  2. Money the state is getting from tax revenues that continue to come in higher than the doomsday predictions;
  3. Money the state is certain to get in the next round of stimulus — which some feel could be an additional $3 billion or more.

Then, there’s this: The state will gain money on the grants it makes to small businesses, as they will help keep those businesses alive — meaning more tax revenue and less spending on unemployment benefits for employees of shuttered businesses.

“The whole idea is being able to prime the pump to make sure the engine keeps going,” Oroho told ROI-NJ. “Because, once it stops, it’s hard to restart.

“We have this money that we borrowed that’s been sitting there — and our revenues have been better than what they were budgeting for. And we think they’re going to continue to do better than what they were budgeted for. Let’s use it for something that is going to help the economy, not just a one-time thing.”

Oroho feels there’s no better use than helping the small business community.

“The small businesses that line our Main Streets and the nonprofits that serve our communities are struggling to survive, which is why Senate Republicans have been fighting for a substantial expansion of assistance programs for months,” he said.

“With state revenues almost certain to beat expectations this year and the likelihood New Jersey will receive billions more in the next federal relief package, there’s no legitimate argument that we can’t afford this legislation.”

These arguments are nothing new for Oroho, who seems to get finances as well as anyone — and not just because he’s the Senate Republican budget officer, but because he’s a financial planner in his day job.

The new legislation, in fact, builds upon a measure, S3210, that was introduced in November and sponsored by the entire Senate Republican caucus.

What’s new this time around is the hope that the bill will get to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk. It has been tabled a number of times, but it should get fast-tracked now that it has bipartisan support, including Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) as a co-sponsor.

Sens. Dawn Addiego (D-Medford), Vin Gopal (D-Ocean Twp.), Declan O’Scanlon (R-Holmdel) and Michael Testa (R-Cape May Court House), as well as Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean (R-Westfield) also have joined in — meaning each geographic region of the state is represented, too.

Oroho thinks everyone should join the effort. Saving the economy, he said, should not be a partisan issue.

“I’m glad this is now a bipartisan effort in the Senate, but we still need the General Assembly and the Murphy administration to get on board for the legislation to advance and be enacted,” he said. “I urge Gov. Murphy and Speaker (Craig) Coughlin to recognize the urgent need for this relief and to publicly express their support for moving it forward.”

And, if they don’t?

Oroho said he’ll be back.

“We’re going to keep pushing on this,” he said. “We didn’t agree with the borrowing, but they did. And they did it because they said things are going to be so bad. If that’s what it’s for, let’s make sure it’s used for things that are specifically pandemic-, economic-recovery related.

“Now, we can say, ‘Let’s use those funds to pay down on everything we’ve done, but we have businesses that are really struggling. And to have a good economy, you have to have a good business climate.’”