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Committee signs off on bills to allocate $100 million for New Jersey businesses struggling under COVID-19 restrictions

The New Jersey Assembly Appropriations Committee advanced a package of bills that would allocate $100 million in federal funds to help businesses struggling under COVID-19 restrictions.

The committee voted unanimously to advance A-5443, A-5444, A-5445, A-5446 and A-5447.

The bills would grant to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) $35 million for restaurants and bars; $25 million for microbusinesses with no more than 10 employees; $15 million for businesses and nonprofits; $15 million for arts and cultural organizations; and $10 million for child care centers.

“The number of small businesses open today in New Jersey, compared to pre-pandemic January of 2020, is down 33.9%, and their revenue is down 33%,” New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) Vice President of Government Affairs Christopher Emigholz said in prepared testimony in favor of the legislation.

“These bills target relief to the businesses that have been hurt most over the past year during the pandemic by government-ordered closures and operating restrictions,” Emigholz added. “New Jersey must do all it can to ensure the businesses that have survived this long are able to make it through the next few months.”

The committee also gave the thumbs-up to A-5133, which would allow restaurants, bars and banquet and wedding venues to operate with limited indoor capacity. Operations depend on local COVID-19 levels and contingent upon meeting safety measures.

“The aim of this legislation is to help Main Streets throughout New Jersey survive and ultimately thrive again, by offering a degree of stability while ensuring the safety of staff and patrons,” Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, D-Camden/Burlington, said in a news release. “Providing a reliable and clear path forward will help the food and beverage industry – among the hardest hit industries in our state – to stay in business both during and beyond this pandemic.”

The committee also signed off on A-4958, which would temporarily exempt small businesses from paying sales tax on expenses for items needed to winterize their outdoor operations. The measure applies to the purchase of tents, space heaters and products that melt or remove snow and ice.

“Many small businesses had to move their operations outside this fall and winter to help protect against COVID-19, which spreads more easily indoors,” Assemblyman Chris Tully, D-Bergen/Passaic, said in a previous news release after the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee advanced the legislation. “However, winterizing a business costs money at a time when many companies have little funding to spare as a result of the economic challenges this pandemic has presented.”

The Office of Legislative Services (OLS) could not determine how much revenue the state might forego because of the exemption.

“To understand why these bills are needed, it is important to understand some of the disheartening business struggles,” Emigholz said. “… Throughout the pandemic, New Jersey has consistently had among the worst unemployment rates in the nation (7.9% today) and has seen more and more people drop completely out of the labor market.”

This article was originally posted on Committee signs off on bills to allocate $100 million for New Jersey businesses struggling under COVID-19 restrictions

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