Ocean County is encouraging small businesses having difficulty making their commercial rent payments due to COVID 19 to apply for a grant that specifically will help with rent or lease payments.
The grant program provides up to $30,000 and applications for Ocean County businesses will be available starting at 9 a.m., Tuesday, Nov. 17. To apply visit www.NJRA.us and follow the links for Ocean County Small Business Lease Emergency Assistance Grant Program or click on https://bit.ly/NJRAOceanGrant and the button to click and apply will be there at 9 a.m. Nov. 17. While the program will run to the end of the year, applications will be considered on a first come first served basis.
“Small businesses are truly the heart and soul of our communities,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, who serves as liaison to tourism and business development. “The Ocean County business community has been uniquely impacted by the pandemic since tourism and hospitality represent such a high percentage of its economic activity here.
“Our businesses were hit earliest and hardest by the pandemic,” he said. “Throughout the summer months our business owners found creative ways to keep their businesses open while keeping employees and the public safe.”
In order to provide some much-needed financial relief to small businesses having a hard time paying lease payments or their monthly rent payment, Ocean County is providing up to $10 million of its Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds to help with those costs.
“I am pleased Ocean County has partnered with the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority (NJRA) to assist Ocean County businesses with rental assistance,” Vicari said. “To further help our small businesses, the County will provide grants up to $30,000 to help defray the cost of rent or leases.
“This is a grant and not a loan,” he said. “The grant is paid directly to the landlord.”
The NJRA’s statewide business rental assistance grant program, which began earlier this year, resulted in some Ocean County businesses requesting assistance being wait listed.
The freeholders agreed to partner with the NJRA to administer the Small Business Lease Emergency Assistance Grant Program solely for Ocean County businesses in order to streamline the grant process.
“It’s vital to our small businesses that this help be made available to them,” Vicari said.
This program will provide grants to small businesses leasing commercial space in mixed-use buildings; small businesses leasing space in commercial buildings; storefront businesses that lease their space and small businesses that demonstrate a loss due to COVID-19.
According to the NJRA, eligible applicants will need to supply a current copy of their executed lease outlining terms and conditions of the agreement, and a current New Jersey tax clearance certificate or current business registration issued by the state of New Jersey.
The applicant must provide verification from the landlord that the respective business is in good standing with monthly lease obligations prior to March 1, 2020. The landlord and small business will need to sign certifications acknowledging the amount of outstanding lease obligations, not to exceed $30,000. The tenant will not be disqualified if monthly lease payments are current/up to date.
Vicari urged Ocean County small businesses or non-profits in Ocean County to apply for the grant as soon as possible.
He noted that in Ocean County there are 3,000 eateries or restaurants alone that have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Steve Steiner, chairman of the Ocean County Tourism Advisory Council, recently told the Board of Freeholders that the County might see a loss of up to 30 percent of its restaurants before next summer due to the restrictions they are currently facing as a result of the pandemic.
“We need to take this action in order to help our restaurants and small businesses survive and once again flourish in the future,” Vicari said. “Their economic health is the county’s economic health.”
Earlier this year, Ocean County had teamed up with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and provided small business grants up to $10,000 to more than 1,000 businesses in Ocean County. There are an additional 200 businesses awaiting final grant approval.
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