HOBOKEN, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez today joined Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise and Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla to announce $1.9 million in federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help small businesses in the city reopen and recover from the economic fallout caused by the pandemic. Hoboken was the first city in the entire nation to close bars and restaurants on March 14, affecting many of the city’s mom and pop shops.
“Our small businesses are hurting. Many that have reopened aren’t yet at full capacity. And relieving some of the burden will only help small businesses and, ultimately, our economy recover,” said Sen. Menendez. “New Jerseyans are tough and resilient. We don’t back down from any fight and whatever knocks us down only makes us stronger. Together, I am confident we’ll get through this and see brighter days ahead.”
“This funding, just a portion of the funds that have been and will continue to be allocated to Hoboken, will help our small businesses weather this storm,” said Congressman Albio Sires (N.J.-08). “We need to support the neighborhood businesses that are the foundation of our community and I’m pleased that this CARES Act funding is making its way to those who need it. I will continue to work with my House colleagues to get more funding to small businesses and municipalities as we craft additional response legislation.”
Small businesses in Hoboken can apply for grants up to $20,000 to help pay expenses such as payroll, rent, mortgage and utilities. The CARES Act also established the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) to help small businesses suffering because of the pandemic. Hoboken small businesses have received tens of millions of dollars in grants and PPP loans.
Last month, Sen. Menendez introduced bipartisan legislation that would automatically forgive PPP loans of $150,000 or less, which is 85% of all PPP loans nationwide. In Hoboken, that would benefit over 1,000 small businesses and instantly forgive $37 million in PPP loans.
"As we continue with our emergency relief efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m extremely grateful to our federal and county officials for allocating funding for our City and small businesses,” said Mayor Bhalla. “This will not only allow us to fund important resources including expanded testing to keep our residents safe, it also provides critical grants for our small businesses who have been severely impacted over the past several months. Thank you to Senator Menendez, Congressman Sires, County Executive DeGise, and Freeholder Romano for working with my office over the past three months throughout the pandemic, and providing much needed CARES Act funding to our City.”
Today’s press conference took place in front of Bwe Kafe, a coffee shop with locations in Hoboken and Jersey City. Before the pandemic struck, the coffee shops were thriving and bustling with customers. With more and more residents working from home and not traveling though the city, Bwe Kafe’s revenue has dipped 60%.
Hoboken is also eligible for up to $5.5 million in reimbursements from the CARES Act for COVID-19 related expenses, including expanded testing, food for seniors, disinfecting public buildings and more. Sen. Menendez and Rep. Sires helped secure a total of $117 million in CARES Act funding for Hudson County.
“Hoboken’s dynamic small business community has long been a leading driver of economic growth in Hudson County,” said County Executive DeGise. “That is why we are so pleased to offer Mile Square City business owners our County Small Business COVID19 Recovery Program, funded by Federal CARES Act dollars secured by Senator Menendez. I know Mayor Bhalla and the City Council will help their small business community take full advantage of what it offers to help them recover.”
“The COVID-19 national emergency has disrupted daily lives of Hoboken residents and our business community in unprecedented ways,” said Hudson County Freeholder Anthony Romano. “For a small business, knowing you will be paid in a timely manner is essential to maintaining operations, particularly as these companies face uncertainties surrounding the progress of the virus and the duration of emergency measures. I’m pleased and grateful to stand next to Senator Bob Menendez, Congressman Albio Sires, and County Executive Tom DeGise in the announcement of federal funding for the small business community. As a small business owner myself, I understand the pressure and stress generated from this pandemic. I am sure that the small business community appreciates the time and efforts to secure the funding at the federal level.”
The senator also discussed the need for greater federal assistance for state and local governments, as they experience rising costs and dipping revenues since the pandemic began. In May, Sen. Menendez introduced the State and Municipal Assistance for Recovery and Transition (SMART) Act, a bipartisan $500 billion bill that would deliver emergency funding to every state, county and community in the country, while prioritizing assistance to the areas with the greatest need. It is estimated that Hoboken would receive about $30 million from the SMART Act, which would help the city expand testing, maintain essential services and avoid layoffs.
“Without help from Washington, they will have no choice but to raise taxes, cut essential services and lay off workers,” Sen. Menendez said. “We’re talking about first responders, teachers, public health and sanitation workers. It would be the height of irony—and a horrible one at that—for the men and women we’ve needed most at this critical time to be the ones fired as a result of the economic distress that the virus has created.”
The senator is working to include the SMART Act in the next COVID stimulus package, which is expected to begin negotiations when the Senate returns from recess next week.
The SMART Act is supported by the National Association of Counties, National League of Cities, U.S. Conference of Mayors, National Association of Realtors, National Troopers Coalition, Amalgamated Transit Union, New Jersey Association of Counties, New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association, Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey, the New Jersey chapter of the Communications Workers of America, the New Jersey Police Benevolent Association, and the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.