Gov. hoards federal cash small business program needs

VINELAND – Cape May County tourist communities that annually send about $550 million to Trenton are…

VINELAND – Cape May County tourist communities that annually send about $550 million to Trenton are locked out of a New Jersey COVID-19 financial relief program that starts in August for small businesses, an irate state lawmaker said on Friday.

“I just really think that it’s somewhat discriminatory by zip code, in the first instance,” said Sen. Michael Testa Jr., who represents the 1st Legislative District in South Jersey. “And it’s simply not enough money.”

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The senator said Gov. Phil Murphy’s decision to set aside only $6 million for the new program is baffling. Small businesses are in trouble statewide and New Jersey has access to about $2.1 billion under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, he said.

“It’s a $6 million program while $2 billion in CARES Act money is still sitting there and has been sitting there for weeks on end, not being used for its intended purpose,” he said. “What I can’t fathom … is the governor continues to say we’re in such a state of ’emergency.’”

On Thursday, Murphy announced $6 million in federal CARES aid would be released in grants of up to $10,000 each. The money is to be used to satisfy lease payments on commercial properties.

“A stronger and fairer New Jersey starts from the bottom up,” Murphy said Thursday. “The Small Business Lease – Emergency Assistance Grant Program will infuse much needed funding into local economies by assisting both small businesses and the landlords that they rent from.”