Seated in popular Nassau Street restaurant Jammin’ Crepes on Monday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill that will provide $15 million in federal relief to struggling small businesses throughout the state.
The bill is part of a larger $100 million COVID-19 relief plan aimed at helping small businesses and nonprofits recover from losses caused by the public health crisis. The other bills include $25 million in aid for arts and cultural venues, $15 million for microbusinesses with fewer than five employees, $35 million for restaurants, and $10 million for child care services, the last of which has not yet been signed into law.
“Through our actions today, we are ensuring that [small businesses] remain strong, and with them, our communities,” Murphy said at Jammin’ Crepes on Monday.
Applications for aid are not yet open, but the applications and aid will be distributed by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA).
“The process for [applying for the grants] will kick off during the second part of this month,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan. “This [money] is going to get out the door prudently, judiciously and expeditiously because businesses can’t wait.”
The government’s stated goal in the legislation is “to prevent additional business and nonprofit organization closures, to preserve and create jobs, and to spur economic recovery.”
The grants will be allocated from funds to the state from a federal Coronavirus Relief Fund pursuant to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Jammin’ Crepes, a restaurant that began selling crepes in a West Windsor farmer’s market in 2011 and opened its Princeton storefront in 2014, benefited from previous waves of economic relief.
The business received a $15,000 grant from Phase 3 of the New Jersey Small Business Emergency Assistance Grants. It was not eligible for the first two phases because there were restrictions on business size.
“[The New Jersey government is] very attentive to hearing how businesses are structured,” said Jammin’ Crepes founder Kathy Klockenbrink in an interview with The Daily Princetonian. “One business structure doesn't fit all.”
As opposed to the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the state does not expect repayment for emergency assistance grants. “There is no round trip on this money,” Murphy said.
“I can’t tell you how much the previous grant helped us out,” Klockenbrink said at Monday’s signing. “We used it constructively for a lot of upgrades. And we are really really appreciative of the state’s efforts, of our community members’ efforts. And truly if it wasn’t for this combined effort, it would have been a bigger challenge to keep our doors open.”
Klockenbrink further emphasized her appreciation for the community and the University in the interview with the ‘Prince.’
“Being there for us, particularly at the very beginning of this pandemic and just coming in and getting their coffee every day ... it’s not lost on us,” she said.
Klockenbrink plans to apply for this additional round of funding, citing the need to constantly adapt during COVID-19. Some of Jammin’ Crepes’ largest costs have been take-out packaging, online updates, and physical partitions.
Knowing Jammin’ Crepes received funding, Murphy’s office reached out to the business to host Monday’s signing.
“We were very happy to be supporters of the next round,” Klockenbrink said.
Murphy expressed appreciation for Princeton’s businesses.
“It is a treat to be able to start the week on one of New Jersey’s quintessential and most historic streets, Nassau Street,” Murphy said. “Nassau Street is the economic heart that beats in downtown Princeton.”
New Jersey Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-16) said at the signing that Jammin’ Crepes is an example of why small businesses are important.
“It is part of the fabric of the community. It is what all small businesses are, which is the very essence of why we want to live in the towns that we live in, why we want to raise our families in the towns we are doing so,” he said.
“Study after study finds that for every dollar you spend on ... small businesses, 70 cents stays in the community,” Zwicker said. “The three owners here are a perfect example of that. The fact that they buy and source their products, their ingredients locally, that they give to nonprofits, that they give back into the community, and they hire locally is really ... why we have to support our small businesses here in New Jersey.”
Apart from the state funding, as part of the Paycheck Protection Program signed into law in March 2020, over 350 Princeton-area small businesses received more than $200 million in federal PPP loans.
Throughout the pandemic, small businesses across the country have closed. CNBC reports that 22 percent of small and medium businesses were closed in February compared to levels at the start of the pandemic. In New Jersey, over 30 percent of small and medium businesses were closed by December 2020.
These businesses belong disproportionately to women and owners of color.
Murphy announced on Monday that the NJEDA has approved roughly 55,000 applications equating to approximately $250 million in funding. Sullivan said more than 11,000 minority-owned businesses and 11,000 women-owned businesses have benefited from the state’s funding.
Other local businesses have benefited from economic relief.
Assistant Manager of Olsson’s Fine Foods Andrew Nemeth told the ‘Prince’ that earlier rounds of funding helped the company find its footing again after a rough patch at the beginning of the pandemic.
“It was kind of tough because foot traffic was one of the biggest things around here. We have tons of regulars, for sure, but we weren’t getting any more foot traffic,” Nemeth said. “We had a lot of ground to make up because we generally do a lot of catering with university.”
With funds from New Jersey, they worked creatively to foster an online presence, and they were able to order a handheld register system to take orders at the door.
“We’ve been able to push our online presence a lot more and get in touch with more people in the area who might not see us otherwise,” Nemeth added.
With University students back in town, Olsson’s is also getting a boost.
“Having students back on campus has really made a huge dent in our sandwich sales,” Nemeth said. “We’ve been selling a lot more sandwiches now.”
Though Nemeth is not involved in financial decision-making at Olsson’s, he speculated that the business will seek out additional state aid to help pay for additional kitchen space.
“That is something that we could certainly benefit from,” he said.