EDA announces grant program for indoor amusement facilities

Grants of up to $150,000 available to businesses crushed by COVID

Many people seemingly didn’t realize just how big the indoor amusement space is in the state until the pandemic. These businesses, which do a lot more than just host birthday parties, were among the hardest hit.

On Wednesday, the board of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority announced a program intended to help them out.

The New Jersey Indoor Amusement Park Grant Program will provide eligible applicants with up to $150,000 to offset losses incurred due to decreased business as a result of the global pandemic.

The program is intended to help indoor amusement parks, arcades and other entertainment centers rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.

These one-time grants will range from $5,000 up to $100,000. Those in Opportunity Zone-eligible census tracts will be eligible for up to $150,000, and businesses that are not located in an Opportunity Zone-eligible census tract can qualify for up to $100,000. The funds may only be used for working capital costs.

This program is being created to help these niche businesses, which were not eligible for funding under the Small Business Administration’s Shuttered Venue Operators Grant or Restaurant Revitalization Fund, by providing funding that will meaningfully improve their viability.

For eligibility, venues must have opened on or before March 9, 2020, and demonstrate a financial need by reporting at least a 50% loss in indoor self-reported gross revenue from the 12-month period of April 2019. Businesses must be open and operating at the date of application. Facilities that include both indoor and outdoor offerings are eligible, yet the losses must be proven to be related to the business’s indoor aspects.

Funds will be disbursed on a first-come, first-serve basis. Funds will be available for the application period, which will be at least 30 days, or until funds are exhausted.

EDA Chief Community Development Officer Tai Cooper said the program will have great impact.

“The pandemic was especially devastating for indoor entertainment facilities, along with other businesses that rely solely on in-person customers,” she said. “These grants will help eligible businesses continue to drive thriving communities, including a focus on those located in Opportunity Zone-eligible areas, where they are so important to the vitality of their neighborhoods.”

EDA CEO Tim Sullivan said the program is another effort by the state to help small business.

“As the New Jersey economy continues to rebound in the wake of COVID-19, investment into family-friendly entertainment centers like indoor amusement facilities adds to the comprehensive nature of our pandemic recovery strategy,” he said.

“Under Gov. (Phil) Murphy’s leadership, the NJEDA has helped thousands of small businesses not only recover from the pandemic but thrive for years to come. The New Jersey Indoor Amusement Park Grant Program will join our suite of programs designed to build the economic resilience of small businesses, especially those that play an essential role in the fabric of our local communities.”