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The New Jersey Economic Development Authority says it will open online applications for its $15 million Small Business Improvement Grant program at 10 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 10.

The Small Business Improvement Grant is the second of several products the NJEDA is launching under the Main Street Recovery Program to help small businesses become more resilient and position themselves for growth. Forty percent of the grant funding will be set aside for businesses and nonprofits located in Opportunity Zone-eligible census tracts.

“The pandemic hit small businesses hard, and the Small Business Improvement Grant will help to offset the costs they had to incur to adapt to new and challenging circumstances,” said Christina Fuentes, NJEDA’s managing director of Community Development.

“We encourage small business owners that have invested in their facilities and operations to adapt to new ways of doing business during these stressful times to apply for this grant to help them recover their costs and build their reserves for whatever the future may hold,” she said.

Small businesses and nonprofits can be reimbursed for up to 50% of eligible project costs associated with building improvements or the purchase and/or installation of new furniture, fixtures, and equipment made on or after March 9, 2020, but no more than two years prior to application. Applicants must provide documentation proving payment was made for completed work, such as invoices, statements and/or cancelled checks.

Grant applicants must also commit to remaining in the facility and meeting wage requirements for up to four years following the execution of the grant agreement, depending on the award amount. Awards greater than $25,000 will have a compliance period of four years and grant awards less than $25,000 will have a compliance period of two years.

The maximum grant available is $50,000 per business entity for the life of this program. The minimum cost of an improvement project is $5,000.

Details about the program, an application checklist, a sample application, and instructions for registering on the NJEDA’s online application portal can be found at www.njeda.com/small-business-improvement-grant.

Created under the Economic Recovery Act of 2020 (ERA), the Main Street Recovery Program is a $100 million small business support program that will fund multiple financial assistance products aimed at supporting the growth and success of small businesses in New Jersey.

The first offering created under the Main Street Recovery Program is the Small Business Lease Grant, which was launched on Oct. 20, 2021. That grant provides an award of 20% of the annual lease payment for each of the first two years of a lease to small businesses and nonprofits that have signed a new lease no earlier than 12 months prior to their date of application. The lease must be for at least 250 square feet of street-level space and for a term of at least five years.

Businesses that have amended or extended their existing lease and added at least 250 square feet of space are eligible for grants as well. Complete eligibility criteria can be found here.

Businesses and nonprofits that receive funding through the Small Business Lease Grant or Small Business Improvement Grant are required to agree to pay employees going forward for the grant term the greater of $15 per hour or 120% of the minimum wage. Tipped employees must be paid at least 120% of the minimum wage.

Signed in January 2021, the ERA creates a package of programs that includes tax credits to incentivize job creation, new construction, and revitalization of brownfields and historic properties; financial resources for small businesses; support for new supermarkets and healthy food retailers in food desert communities; new funding opportunities for early-stage companies in New Jersey; and support for the growing film and digital media industry.