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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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Economic Development Leaders Explain Assistance Programs

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By Vince Conti

To access the Herald’s local coronavirus/COVID-19 coverage, click here.
COURT HOUSE – The South Jersey Chamber of Commerce, with participation from the Greater Atlantic City and Cape May County chambers, sponsored a webinar May 13, which brought five South Jersey leaders together to speak about the response the business community and the state have marshaled to help small to mid-size businesses and nonprofits during the economic crisis.
The presentation began with a speech from Tim Sullivan, chief executive officer, New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA), and newly appointed co-chair of the state’s Restart and Recovery Council.
Sullivan’s focus was on programs NJEDA has available to help businesses in South Jersey. Calling the present crisis an “unprecedented time” and articulating the agency’s goals to stabilize and revitalize small and mid-sized businesses, Sullivan described a series of grant and loan programs, some of which have already had initial rounds of funding exhausted as new funding is being sought. The programs included operating grants and loans for small businesses, partnerships with Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), entrepreneurial support programs, technical assistance support, and programs to increase credit flexibility loans.
The variety of programs and their varied qualification requirements can be overwhelming. The presentation itself was a sea of acronyms. Sullivan recommended that business owners use the eligibility wizard available, at www.cv.business.nj.gov. The wizard will walk a user through a series of questions that help narrow assistance programs for which the business owner may be eligible.
Also speaking was Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo, of the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Asaro-Angelo said the department had seen 1 million claims for unemployment in the last several weeks.  He was proud to report that 700,000 individuals were currently receiving benefits.
“Do I wish it was faster, yes,” he said, “but the system is working as it should.”
The commissioner said that the department was “making changes to make the experience smoother,” explaining that the hiring and training of new representatives capable of handling claim questions takes time. He said the median time from filing a claim and being approved is six days. Only about 3% of claim filers have problems, but he noted that when there are 1 million claims filed, 3% is a significant number of people.
Asaro-Angelo also assured webinar attendees that there are jobs available, referencing the state’s call for 1,000 contact tracers, as part of increased COVID-19 testing.
Sheryl Paynter, lead lender relations specialist, New Jersey District Office of the Small Business Administration, spoke next.
Paynter emphasized that Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans are still open, and encouraged those who qualify to apply for a second round of funding. Paynter explained the various regulations that govern PPP loans and the loan forgiveness aspects of the program. She emphasized that new information on the program is still being released.
Wayne Meyer, president, New Jersey Community Bank, followed Paynter. Meyer discussed the Garden State Relief Fund and flexible financing help for small businesses. He explained that Community Capital was the largest certified CDFI in the state. Programs include revolving loan funds, redevelopment and foreclosure mitigation, homeowner counseling and mortgage products, capacity building, and technical assistance.
Meyer described the Garden State Relief Fund as one that provided flexible, quick access to capital currently at a fixed 3% interest rate for small businesses and nonprofits.
The last speaker on the webinar was Harry Stone, president and chief executive officer, Cooperative Business Assistance Corporation. He spoke of technical assistance to help business owners apply for programs targeted at COVID-19 recovery. He admitted that many programs were oversubscribed, but that the cooperative was seeking new funding for lending to micro and small businesses.
The Q&A involved all five speakers attempting to respond to specific questions from the webinar audience.
Those interested in seeing the presentations and the question period that followed can find the video of the webinar on YouTube.
To contact Vince Conti, email vconti@cmcherald.com.

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