Baraka launches grant program for small businesses and nonprofits impacted by coronavirus

NEWARK, NJ — In the first of a series of sweeping economic initiatives to ease the financial pain of Newark residents due to the COVID-19 shutdown, Mayor Ras Baraka recently announced a program that will provide small businesses and small nonprofit agencies with emergency grants.

With $2 million earmarked for this small business grant program, the city will offer approximately 200 business grants up to $10,000 to provide working capital for operating costs, payroll, accounts payable, inventory, equipment, rent, taxes, licensing or other business-related expenses.

“This city, its small businesses and nonprofits are experiencing one of the greatest challenges in our history,” Baraka said. “Small businesses and nonprofits are often the heart of our neighborhoods and, equally, are an important piece of our economy. We can’t stand by and wait for help from other sources. Here in Newark, we must solve our own problems.”

The qualification criteria for grants are as follows: The business must have a physical establishment located in Newark; it must have 10 employees or fewer; it must show loss of income directly tied to the coronavirus crisis; and businesses that owe any money to the city will have their applications placed at the bottom of the list.

Applications for the fund opened Monday, March 30, through a link on the United Way of Essex County website,

The grant program will be coordinated by the city’s Department of Economic and Housing Development in partnership with the United Way of Essex County and Invest Newark, with funding from local funding, federal funding and private sources, including Prudential and Invest Newark.

“The purpose of this initiative is to quickly create and mobilize resources to ensure Newark small businesses persevere through this pandemic,” said Bernel Hall, president and CEO of Invest Newark.

Allison Ladd, the city’s director of economic and housing development, said the information received from the applications and a webinar held last week “will also help us assess the needs of our small business community to see how we can continue to help moving forward.” Ladd also said the Newark economy is dependent now more than ever on businesses helping one another.

“We encourage all businesses to hire and buy local to help stimulate the Newark economy,” Ladd said. 

Baraka’s administration is also organizing five other programs to help residents during this time. They are:

  • Approximately $1 million investment in rapid, short-term rental housing for 300 of the most vulnerable Newark residents, including those without permanent addresses.
  • Up to $1 million investment in community-based nonprofits that serve Newark residents.
  • A $1 million investment in the “Live Newark” program to provide down payment and rehabilitation funds for up to 100 Newark homeowners.
  • An up to $750,000 arts initiative investment that will assist up to 30 arts and cultural organizations with operating funds and capital funds.
  • A directive from Baraka to the tax assessor to accept applications from building owners with business tenants who have been negatively affected by COVID-19. The buildings will be reassessed to reduce the taxes owed by the building and the tax savings will be passed along to the small business tenants in form of a rent reduction.

For more information on these programs, email