County announces rent aid program for small businesses, nonprofits

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — Essex County is allocating $9 million to create the Essex County Small Business Lease Emergency Assistance Grant. This grant funding is designed to help small businesses and nonprofit agencies in Essex County that have been negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic pay their rents. Essex County businesses and nonprofit agencies can apply for grants up to $30,000. Essex County is partnering with the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority to administer the program. Applications are now available at the Essex County Office of Small Business Development website at Grants will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. 

“Small businesses form the backbone of our local economy and nonprofit organizations provide a vital safety net of social services for our residents. Both have been heavily impacted by the coronavirus and both need our help to be able to economically survive,” Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. said. “Through our partnership with the NJRA, we are making grants available to help small businesses and nonprofits pay for their rent. This will help small businesses and nonprofits keep their doors open and benefits landlords who will receive rental payments so they can pay for property taxes and other expenses.” 

“Small businesses in Essex County have certainly been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. As leaders in government, we must do our part to help them through these unprecedented times. This program will help businesses keep their doors open, it will allow landlords to continue to pay property taxes on the buildings where they are based, and it will allow area residents to continue patronizing businesses that are part of the fabric of their communities,” Freeholder President Brendan Gill said.

Essex County is funding the Small Business Lease Emergency Assistance Grant with money it received from the federal CARES Act. Essex is partnering with the NJRA to have the state agency accept and review the applications.

Grants are available to Essex County–based small businesses and nonprofit agencies. Applicants must be tenants leasing commercial space in mixed-used buildings, tenants leasing commercial space in commercial buildings or storefront businesses that lease their space. To be eligible, the applicant’s leased premises must be no more than 7,500 square feet of leasable space; priority will be given to leased premises of 5,000 square feet or smaller. Applicants do not have to be delinquent on their lease payments; as a small business owner, the applicant may have exhausted all of their savings to avoid closing their business. Not eligible to apply are businesses that are engaged in gambling or “adult” activities, auction sales, Christmas tree sales, tattoo parlors, smoke shops and liquor stores. 

Eligible applicants will need to provide a current copy of their lease; certification from the tenant confirming a closing date due to the pandemic; a copy of a current NJ tax clearance certificate; answers to debarment questions included in the application; and verification from the landlord that the business is in good standing with monthly lease obligations prior to March 1, 2020.

The willing participation of the landlord is necessary for the application and the landlord must verify that he or she will accept payment from Essex County. Residents and landlords also must affirm that funding assistance has not been received from other sources that would create a duplication of benefits. When an application is approved, the payment will be made directly to the landlord.