Seeking to aid New Jersey’s small, local alcohol production and retail industry, now struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, legislation to make them eligible for relief under an existing, non-emergency New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) loan program passed 80-0 in the full Assembly Thursday.
Specifically, the bill (A-3965) seeks to make loans available for certain qualifying capital expenses – intended for business expansion to alleviate financial burdens caused by COVID-19 – and for qualifying operating, or day-to-day, expenses such as rent, payroll and utilities. Interest rates on loans would be set at an amount equal to the prime rate or up to three points above.
Assembly Democrats Bill Moen (D-Camden, Gloucester), Carol Murphy (D-Burlington) and Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson), sponsors of the bill, released the following joint statement:
“This pandemic has brought our economy to a near halt, putting a strain on our growing small business industry and, as the summer fast approaches, is threatening to severely impact New Jersey’s busiest season for tourism. The dense concentration of bars, micro and craft breweries, wineries, and distilleries, who rely on taproom revenues and in large part complement the Jersey tourist experience, are no exception to the financial hardship we’re seeing. Many have only just come onto the scene in recent years and so this bill is crucial for us to help maintain their vitality.”
Small producers of alcoholic beverages include those operating under a limited brewery license, a restricted brewery license, a plenary winery license, a farm winery license, a cidery and meadery license, a limited distillery license, a supplementary limited distillery license, or a craft distillery license. Small retailers eligible are those with 10 or fewer employees who are operating with a Class C license.
The bill now goes to the Senate for further consideration.