TRENTON – The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Jan. 29 announced the award of the second round of Neighborhood Preservation Covid-19 Relief Grants, totaling $3.6 million to 19 municipalities participating in the Neighborhood Preservation Program (NPP).
According to a release, Cape May will receive $1,000 in grants to small businesses for rent/mortgage and Covid impacted operational support, and districtwide PPE. The city received $105,000 in the first round.
This grant funding is in addition to the first round of grants totaling $2.6 million announced last month. The grants are assisting in the recovery and revitalization of NPP communities by providing funding for eligible Covid response activities, with an emphasis on supporting impacted small businesses.
“The Neighborhood Preservation Program is all about helping municipalities transform declining neighborhoods into thriving neighborhoods. Before the pandemic, these 19 communities were making considerable progress towards their goals of attracting residents, entrepreneurs, and visitors,” stated Lt. Gov. Sheila Y. Oliver, who serves as DCA commissioner. “We didn’t want to see the results of this tremendous work vanish as a result of Covid-19 and quickly developed a program to assist these unique neighborhoods. We’re proud to say that this grant funding has been a lifeline to our NPP communities in what has been an extremely challenging year.”
Both rounds of the relief grants are funded by an allocation from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The $6.2 million in grant funds were awarded to municipalities that have a current, approved Neighborhood Preservation Program Implementation Plan through the local government or an NPP partner nonprofit organization. A majority of the funding is for business uses and must be distributed to small businesses located in their NPP neighborhood district boundaries.
The remainder of the funding is dedicated to NPP district improvements that benefit both the local business and residential communities. Eligible uses of the grant funding include:
- Commercial mortgage, rent, and other bills (utilities, accounts payable)
- Resources to get a business established online (for example, an upgraded website to make delivery available to customers)
- Procurement of hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, masks, gloves, shield guards, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) for business owners, staff, and customers
- Social distancing signage and decals
- Procurement of tables, chairs, and other furniture for outdoor dining
- Covid educational materials, activities, and events
- Wages for activities substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the Covid public health emergency
- Community access to internet services for food shopping
- Expenses for community social and health benefit activities by nonprofit groups that are necessary due to the Covid pandemic
- Local gift card programs that promote patronage of NPP neighborhood businesses
- Program administration expenses for activities dedicated to Covid response
Approximately 98% of the $6.2 million in funding has been used by the NPP communities for 561 direct grants to more than 430 small businesses. The grant funding has also been used for 68 NPP district improvement projects, including thousands of pieces of PPE and sanitizer, outdoor dining and seating equipment, social distance signage and stickers, local community-based gift-card programs, and small business training and district marketing efforts.
For example, NPP Keyport, in Monmouth County, has provided grants to 77 small businesses, or about 50% of businesses in the district, and funded 12 district improvement projects, such as PPE distribution and Downtown Keyport marketing initiatives.
“I’ve had business owners say this funding was a miracle. Some have mentioned that it’s the first time their needs had been heard during the pandemic,” stated Nicole Henn, Keyport NPP coordinator. “To be a part of the solution is humbling. It’s personal on some level because these are my neighbors. They wave to my children when we walk by, they donate to school events. I just can’t imagine the fabric of our town being the same without them.”
In NPP Perth Amboy, in Middlesex County, small businesses used the grants to pay back rent and cover expenses they incurred during the most difficult days of the pandemic. One beauty salon owner accumulated over $30,000 in rental debt and the $20,000 grant she received allowed her to remain open and continue to employ six people.
“A majority of our businesses in the downtown NPP district are smaller mom-and-pop shops and, unlike major corporations, do not have the resources to adapt. The NPP Covid-19 Relief Grant program made it possible for us to offer direct financial assistance to our small businesses,” stated Tashi Vazquez, assistant director of Perth Amboy’s Office of Economic and Community Development. “Our city administration is moving to help our economy get back on track to pre-pandemic levels by launching our Back to Business initiative, which would not be possible without the nearly $400,000 in grant funds from NPP at DCA.”
NPP Hammonton, in Atlantic County, awarded 90 small business grants and also put funding toward a public address system to promote social distancing, outdoor dining enhancements, and downtown parklets.
“About 84% of the businesses that received grants were very likely to close permanently without receiving funding. Many jobs were saved by this vital funding as well,” stated Cassie Iacovelli, executive director of MainStreet Hammonton.
So far, approximately 15% of businesses in NPP Passaic’s large downtown district have received direct grants.
“NPP has enabled many of our smaller businesses to meet critical operational needs and continue their services to residents. Without NPP, and programs like it, it is unlikely many of these businesses would be able to survive,” stated Passaic NPP Coordinator Joe Buga. “NPP is directly saving jobs and assuring that much-needed services remain available to the community.”