NJEDA – Shopping Local Remains Vital During Holiday Season as New Jersey Small Businesses Continue to Recover from COVID-19 Impact

Holiday shopping presents many opportunities to show your support for locally-owned businesses in New Jersey. With close to one million small businesses that call the Garden State their home, the support we show our small business owners during the holidays will have a more far-reaching effect than you may anticipate.

When you consider that according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are 937,436 small businesses in New Jersey that employ around 1.9 million people, which  translates to half of all employees in the State, you can begin to understand the monetary impact small businesses bring to our economy. Three times more money returns to the local economy when you shop locally, while eating at locally-owned restaurants brings in two times more money, according to a series of independent-business impact studies conducted by Civic Economics, a consulting firm for local businesses.

To date, in line with Governor Phil Murphy’s vision for a strong recovery, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) has approved 92,300 grants, loans, guarantees of loans, and technical assistance totaling nearly $667 million through COVID-19 relief programs.  Of that, more than 77,790 grants totaling over $589 million have been awarded.

“In support of Governor Murphy’s goal of a stronger, fairer New Jersey economy, the NJEDA developed numerous programs and services to help our small businesses effectively navigate the economic difficulties caused by the pandemic,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan. “When small business owners have the local support, on top of any federal or state resources they might be eligible for, the light at the end of the tunnel becomes much brighter, not just for that business, but for the entire community.”

Sullivan added that in order to ensure equitable and inclusive distribution of support, one-third of grant funding approved has been for businesses in the 715 census tracts deemed eligible for consideration as Opportunity Zones.

“Minority- and women-owned businesses were impacted particularly hard by the pandemic, and the holidays are a great time to show our support,” said NJEDA’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Michelle Bodden. “COVID-19 exacerbated the existing challenges faced by businesses owned by people of color, and an equitable and successful recovery is imperative to the economic future of all New Jersey families.”

Bodden noted that outreach efforts for almost all the Authority’s COVID-19 relief programs targeted minority- and women-owned businesses as well as businesses in historically marginalized communities. As a result of these efforts, nearly 30 percent of the grant funding the NJEDA made available to COVID-19-impacted businesses went to women- and/or minority-owned small businesses.

Whether you decide to shop in one of your town’s many small businesses or opt to hit the road and visit your favorite New Jersey small-town vacation destination, shopping locally during Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday will prove to be of vital importance to our local economies, as the money you spend at these brick-and-mortar, mom-and-pop shops, will in turn support the communities they serve in several ways.

When small business owners use their earnings to pay for the local products and services they need, that money continues to circulate within the community. By shopping local, you are not just supporting small business owners, you str also supporting their families, their employees and their employees’ families. Additionally, a portion of the taxes charged on your purchases helps fund local police and fire departments, build and improve your schools, and keep roads and bridges in good condition. Therefore, shopping locally also benefits local facilities and municipalities.

The NJEDA’s support for small businesses in the state has not been limited to financial relief program. The Authority has also provided funding to create the E-Commerce Technical Assistance program services to help businesses operate safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. In July of 2020, the Authority engaged the services of Hudson IntegratedPositive Solutions, and Suasion Communications Group to help businesses that normally rely on foot traffic and in-person transactions identify and implement the website and ecommerce capabilities they need to stay in business while complying with health guidelines and changing customer preferences. Through support from this program, more than 60 New Jersey businesses have pivoted to expand their online capabilities, which has helped them continue to serve their customers throughout the pandemic, and also capitalize on opportunities to reach more customers, such as Cyber Monday.

Another NJEDA program that has received high praise for the positive impact it’s had on struggling communities is Sustain and Serve NJ. The program provides eligible entities with grants of between $100,000 to $2 million to support the purchase of meals from New Jersey-based restaurants that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. So far, $34 million has been awarded to 29 organizations throughout the state to partner with over 400 restaurants and meal delivery services in all 21 counties. Governor Murphy announced another $10 million for the program earlier this month. Sustain and Serve NJ is now on track to provide more than 4.5 million meals.

Some programs created under the Main Street Recovery Program, established under the New Jersey Economic Recovery Act of 2020 (ERA), signed into law by Governor Murphy on January 7, 2021, are designed to assist growing small businesses. This includes the recently-launched Small Business Lease Grant, which offers reimbursement of a percentage of annual lease payments to for profit businesses and non-profit organizations in eligible areas that plan to lease between 500 – 5,000 square feet of new or