New Jersey Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington) met with a group of small business owners Monday, in a roundtable event discussing the Economic Development Authority’s grossly mismanaged administration of the Stronger New Jersey Business Grant program. The event, which took place at Francesco’s Italian Restaurant in Highlands, New Jersey, featured several business owners expressing serious frustrations about lengthy, unexplained delays, being bounced from caseworker to caseworker, and a lack of transparency surrounding the process.
“This grant program was designed to provide small businesses damaged by Superstorm Sandy a helping hand to help businesses get back on their feat,” said Greenwald. “What they got instead was a horror story: endless delays, unanswered questions, bureaucratic foot-dragging, finger-pointing, and mismanagement.”
“The stories I heard today from the small business owners who are the backbone of our state’s economy are extremely disturbing,” Greenwald continued. “When it comes to this grant program, our small business owners deserve action and answers, not excuses.”
The Stronger New Jersey Business Grant program began in April 2013, with the goal of helping small business owners repair damage their businesses suffered as a result of Superstorm Sandy. The program, which provides up to $50,000 to businesses with revenues bellow $5 million, provides funds may be used by impacted businesses for working capital, inventory, equipment, furnishings, and construction.
At the program’s inception, the Economic Development Authority assured business owners that applications were “anticipated to take two weeks to process and disburse funds.” Yet nearly one year later, only 334 grants awarded out of more than 3,300 applicants and $16.23 million out of the program’s $100 million budget approved for spending. The EDA awarded a $12 million contract to Public Financial Management to oversee the program.
“Let me be perfectly clear: the EDA’s stunning lack of urgency and efficiency in administering this program is completely unacceptable,” said Greenwald. “I will continue to pursue this issue until New Jersey’s small business owners get the answers and action they deserve.”