The New Jersey Economic Development Authority will begin accepting applications on a rolling basis next week from eligible businesses and nonprofits seeking state grants to offset up to 20% of the annual cost of leases for new or expanded space.

The $10 million Small Business Lease Grant program is intended to help small businesses grow and revitalize downtown areas by addressing the problem of vacant street-level spaces on Main Streets. The grants are available to small businesses and nonprofits that sign a new lease, lease amendment or lease extension for at least 250 square feet of new or additional street-level office, commercial or retail space for a minimum term of five years.

Starting Oct. 20, eligible businesses and nonprofits can apply for a pair of grants totaling up to 20% of their annual lease payments. The first grant will be paid immediately after an applicant is approved for the program and the second grant will be paid one year after lease payments have been made.

Leases must be market-rate and signed after March 9, 2020 and within 12 months of the application date.

To be eligible, applicants must meet the U.S. Small Business Administration definition of a small business and certify that they will pay wages of at least $15 an hour or 120% of the minimum wage rate for the term of the grant agreement (five years). Tipped employees must only be paid 120% of minimum wage.

Part of the Economic Recovery Act of 2020, the $100 million Main Street Recovery Finance Program provides funds for multiple financial assistance products for small businesses. The Small Business Lease Grant Program sets aside $4 million (40%) for businesses located in Opportunity Zones.

More details about the program and eligibility criteria can be found on the NJEDA’s website here. The grant application will be live on the NJEDA’s online Application Center starting on Oct. 20.