MORRIS COUNTY — Governor Phil Murphy signed into law A-5444, which provides $35 million in federal COVID-19 relief aid for restaurants throughout New Jersey. The bill – sponsored by Senators Vin Gopal and Joseph Lagana and Assembly Members Vincent Mazzeo, Pedro Mejia, Christopher Tully, and Louis Greenwald – provides aid to a particularly hard-hit sector of New Jersey’s economy. The bill is part of a five-bill, $100 million relief effort aimed at helping New Jersey’s small businesses recover from the year-long pandemic.
“For the past year, our restaurants have fought the good fight, and we know that fight has not been easy,” said Governor Murphy. “This legislation will provide a much-needed lifeline to small business owners, who, through no fault of their own, have been devastated by this pandemic.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been unprecedented health and economic tragedy for everyone, but it is hard to think of a sector that has been hit harder than restaurants. Restaurant owners and their employees have faced previously unimaginable challenges with tenacity and grit that has been inspiring for everyone, but they cannot overcome COVID-19 alone,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan. “There is now a light at the end of the tunnel, but we still have a long way to go to get there. The $35 million in new grant funding Governor Murphy has signed into law today will provide vital support these businesses need to bridge the gap and continue reopening safely.”
“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were more than 19,000 food and beverage establishments throughout New Jersey, with restaurants employing nearly 8 percent of the workers in our state,” said Assembly Members Mazzeo, Tully, Mejia, and Greenwald. “The public health emergency has taken a significant toll on this industry, which so many of us benefit from and enjoy. We must provide support to these establishments to help them get through this crisis and allow them to employ New Jerseyans while continuing to serve residents and visitors alike for years to come.”
“With capacity limitations affecting bars and restaurants, the food and drink industry has been struggling since the start of the pandemic,” said Senator Gopal. “Many of these smaller restaurants and bars have been fraught with the potential of closing down permanently, which would not only have an effect on the local economies but the job status of many workers within this industry. This funding will help ensure that these establishments can keep their doors open and help restore the jobs that have been lost due to the pandemic.”
“Mom and pop restaurants and bars have always been keystones in our communities, creating multigenerational traditions and shaping neighborhoods. Sadly, many of these institutions have been forced to close or suffered greatly over the last year,” said Senator Lagana. “With this grant funding, we are giving beloved small businesses an opportunity to get through the hard times, hire workers and remain an integral part of their community.”
The relief aid will be administered by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. To date, the NJEDA has distributed more than $250 million in aid to some 55,000 businesses across the state.