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The Mercer County Small Business Grant Program has $3.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars available to provide direct aid to Mercer County small businesses that have experienced pandemic hardships.

The focus will be on businesses that have physical storefronts in Mercer County with a maximum amount of $10,000 allocated per grant. The Mercer County Commissioners approved the $3.5 million allocation to implement the program on Jan. 12.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our local economy, creating jobs and spinoff businesses, and bringing stability to our communities,” Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes said. “This infusion of financial support will be a boost to local businesses that have been hard hit during the pandemic, and we are grateful to the federal government for providing us with meaningful relief for our residents and business owners.”

The online application portal for the Small Business Grant Program will open soon, Hughes said. GrantWorks Inc., which has been procured to provide American Rescue Plan Act Program Management services for Mercer County, will provide an online application portal that will be accessible via mobile phone, tablet or computer.

This portal will allow for easy document uploads via traditional document upload methods or via photo capabilities of mobile devices, Hughes said. After collection of application and eligibility documentation, GrantWorks will review applications, and request additional documentation as needed. Grant funds will be delivered as a bank check made payable to the person or entity identified on the business’s New Jersey registration.

The Small Business Grant program follows another small business program announced by Hughes in December, the Small Business Investment Program. The county has set aside up to $500,000 in federal funds under this program to provide direct relief to local small businesses that are likely to have experienced difficulties obtaining capital through conventional methods such as small business loans, revenue through the creation of stock and traditional investors.

Small businesses, especially Black- and Brown-owned small businesses, are struggling to make ends meet in the wake of the pandemic, resulting in economic crisis,” Hughes said. “Our goal is to bring more stakeholders to the table to support these businesses.”

The county will provide more information soon on how qualified businesses may apply for funds under the Small Business Investment Program, Hughes said.