After remnants of Tropical Storm Ida battered the tri-state area on Sept. 1, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said the state will disburse $10 million in grants for rent relief to small businesses and non-profits devastated by the historic weather event.
“Now that the skies have cleared, we are eager to get to work on helping those who are waking up to harsh economic realities reclaim their livelihoods and mitigate Ida’s financial impacts to their businesses and the hardworking people they employ,” Murphy said Sept. 3 during a press conference in flood-ravaged Millburn, his first stop on a multi-city tour of storm-related damage.
Grants Will Provide Rent, Mortgage Relief
According to Murphy, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) will award grants between $1,000 and $5,000 to small businesses and non-profits with up to 50 employees that sustained damage from the storm or flooding.
The funding aims to provide short-term, immediate rent and mortgage reimbursement and entities may apply regardless of whether they have flood insurance, the governor said. Landlords, as well as small home-based businesses, are not eligible to apply, however.
Further details and a website to apply will be provided next week, officials said.
Murphy: Federal Funds On The Way
After describing the grants as “an initial step” that is “designed to get funds to businesses as quickly as possible,” Murphy said that larger-scale financial relief would likely come via federal emergency assistance programs.
Late Thursday, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for all 21 counties in New Jersey, which makes resources through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) available to state and local governments.
After touring Ida-related damage in Louisiana late last week, Biden will be in Manville and Queens, NY on Sept. 7 — two areas hit hard by devastating flooding — to survey the destruction.
After COVID, Ida’s Impact ‘Particularly Devastating’
Tim Sullivan, NJEDA’s chief executive officer, said, “A disaster on the scale of what occurred in New Jersey and neighboring states is distressing under any circumstances, but it’s particularly devastating on the heels of an economic disruption of the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
He added, “NJEDA staff is prepared, under Gov. Murphy’s leadership, to act quickly to assist businesses experiencing the destructiveness of Ida, with the continued agility and dedication that has enabled us to provide more than 80,000 grants and loans through our COVID-19 programs.”
State Senate President Steve Sweeney called the grants “a critical lifeline” for small businesses and non-profits around the state, many of which remain “on the brink of closure” due to the pandemic’s financial impact.
“Without assistance the storm damage could push them over the edge,” Sweeney added.
NJ’s Death Toll Grows
Ida—which slammed the state with torrential rains and heavy winds, along with tornadoes, extensive flooding and power outages—was one of New Jersey’s deadliest storms on record, killing at least 27 people. As of Sunday, at least four people, three Passaic County residents and one person from Essex County, remain missing.
ABC News noted that the Garden State has seen the greatest loss of life tied to Ida.
A newly-released analysis from Accuweather estimated Ida and its remnants caused up to $95 billion in damage and economic loss, much of that in Northeastern states.
‘We Have A lot More Work To Do’
In his remarks Friday, Murphy acknowledged more must be done to help New Jersey better deal with extreme weather events.
Murphy stressed that the state has already made key investments in storm-resistant upgrades, including $1.5 billion into water infrastructure over the past three years, as well as $22 million included in the latest budget for flood resilience projects.
“This conversation is one that we will continue having, probably for the rest of our lives,” Murphy said. “But the unfortunate reality is that sudden and intense rainfall is exactly one of the circumstances that New Jersey’s climate scientists have predicted.”
“It’s clear that we have a lot more work to do,” he said. “I quote that great philosopher from the movie Jaws: ‘We need a bigger boat.'”