African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey President & CEO John Harmon (Facebook)

By Glenn Townes

Earlier this week, the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ) was tapped to oversee an initiative by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) to offer technical and financial assistance and support to businesses impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, officials announced in Trenton.

The organizations will help small businesses—many of them minority and women owned business enterprises (M/WBE’s) across the state—navigate the complex and tedious process of filing and submitting documentation to the Small Business Administration (SBA). Under Congress’ recently approved stimulus package, thousands of small businesses are eligible to receive more than $350 billion in loans and/or grants in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The four organizations selected to provide application assistance to businesses are the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ); the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (SHCCNJ); the New Jersey State Veterans Chamber of Commerce and Rising Tide Capital.

In a recent interview with NJ URBAN NEWS, NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan said, “New Jersey is working with public and private sector partners to ensure that small businesses, including those in historically under served communities, have access to the resources they need to continue paying their bills and their workers during these unprecedented times.” Sullivan added that through the technical assistance program, small business owners and entrepreneurs will receive guidance in preparing financial information, completing and submitting online and/or hard copy applications to the SBA.

As highlighted by President Donald Trump, direct compensation for the business owners will be based on the properly and accurately submitted applications to the SBA.  Also included in the COV-19 Economic Relief Package is a grant relief program that will provide up to $5,000 to NJ-based small to medium-sized enterprises that have between 1-10 full-time employees. Sullivan added the grant funding program targets businesses with unrestricted payroll and working capital support—excluding capital expenses.

Sullivan, who has sat at the helm of the NJEDA since February 2018, said he is focused on fostering the growth of minority and women-owned business enterprises across the state and region.  For example, in January, under Sullivan’s direction, the NJEDA established a diversity seed fund solely designed to encourage minority and women-owned businesses to launch start-ups in under-served communities across the state. It’s unclear how the seed program will work in conjunction with the COVID-19 stimulus package. However, some indications are the two entities will be independent and, perhaps allow some small and diverse owned businesses to utilize aspects of both programs.

Lastly, John Harmon, president and CEO of the AACCNJ lauds the NJEDA for designating the AACCNJ as the lead agency to oversee the technical assistance  initiative. “To the small business owners and employers throughout the state, know that we will leverage our partnerships and expertise to guide you through the SBA application process. We are here to help.”

Below is a partial list of recently approved funding/grant/support and loan programs for eligible small business enterprises impacted by COVID-19:

  • Payment Protection Program Loans: Cash-flow assistance through federally-guaranteed loans to employers who maintain their payroll through this crisis. For employers who maintain their full payroll, loans will be forgiven. PPP Loans are available through June 30, 2020.
  • Small Business Debt Relief Program: To provide immediate relief for small businesses with non-disaster SBA loans, the SBA will cover all loan payments on SBA loans, including principle, interest and fees, for six months. Relief will also be available to new borrowers who take out loans within the next six months.
  • Economic Injury Disaster Loans and Emergency Economic Injury Grants: Loans for small businesses and non-profits who’ve been harmed by the COVID-19 outbreak paired with emergency advances of up to $10,000 that do not need to be repaid, and can be used to keep employees on payroll, pay for sick leave, meet increased production costs or pay business obligations like rent or mortgage payments.
  • Counseling and Training: Business counselors are available to help you make a plan for this crisis. Your local Small Business Development Center, Women’s Business Center, Minority Business Development Center or SCORE membership chapter can help. Local resources can be found here.
  • Special Support for Federal Contractors: Agencies will be able to modify the terms and conditions of a contract and reimburse paid leave.

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