EDA prioritizes Sandy-rebuilding grants for businesses

TRENTON – Economic Development Authority CEO Michele Brown said Wednesday she hopes to get the grant application process regarding Sandy rebuilding funds rolled out “within weeks” of receiving approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The EDA is the agency that was assigned to handle the release of $500 million worth of Community Development Block Grant funds to businesses hard hit by Superstorm Sandy last year.

“The immediate goal is to give grants to businesses,” Brown said. EDA had its fiscal year 2014 hearing today before the Senate Budget Committee.

Brown said businesses could receive $50,000 each, which should cover some 70 percent of businesses that incurred storm-related damage.

“We think that they are right-sized,” she said.

Those businesses that suffered greater damage could apply for loans for as much as $5 million through the Small Businesses Administration.

Brown said businesses in the tourism districts that were hard hit will be given priority.

“We know that every week makes a difference if they will survive next year’s business,” she said.

Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-11, Red Bank, said it “would be fabulous” if the grant program gets rolling that quickly. However, she described the SBA loan application process as “a nightmare,” saying the applications ask for “incredibly detailed information” that can only be made available through paperwork that was mostly likely damaged by Sandy.

But Brown said if businesses fill out the loan application, the EDA could use “99 percent” of that information for the release of grants to the applicants.

“We understand the businesses are incredibly frustrated,” she said. “We’ll get 99 percent of the information from the SBA application.”

EDA prioritizes Sandy-rebuilding grants for businesses