City Announces Economic Recovery Plan, Will Focus On Investment In the Community

Providing assistance to small businesses like Oliphant’s will be just one facet of helping to stimulate recovery coming out of the pandemic. The city's plan also aims to stimulate job growth, improve equitable development and rejuvenate local neighborhoods. 

“We know that we’re not going to be finished in a couple of months or one to two years. It’s going to take a while for us to get on the footing that we need to be on,” Baraka said. “This year, we raised a little over $8 million to begin this kind of investment in our communities right away.”

Prior to the pandemic, the mayor said Newark was experiencing “a period of rapid investment and economic expansion. The plan now is to reignite that growth starting with an $8.8 million budget, part of which the city raised over the past year. 

The city also intends to use federal monies it received from the 2021 American Rescue Plan to enhance what it’s calling a “tech cluster,” creating permanently affordable commercial space, offer low-cost broadband access to small businesses through Newark Fiber, and expedite development approvals. 

Alongside helping individuals like Oliphant, the city plans to connect to grants, technical assistance and other wraparound services to support business recovery. Investment in neighborhood revitalization efforts to bring back people to the city’s commercial corridors, getting customers in the area once again will be another goal for the city, officials said. 

For jobs, the city plans to expand and retain employment opportunities by supporting minority- and women-owned businesses as well as launch sector initiatives to attract and develop growth.

In order to simulate equitable development, the city plans to spark development in targeted areas where affordable housing units are particularly needed.

After a report conducted by The Rutgers Law School Center on Law, Inequality and Metropolitan Equity indicated a “severe” rental stock gap for the city’s low-income residents, it highlighted that each of the North, South, West and East wards have a gap of more than 3,000 low-cost units that rent for less than $900 with little demand for additional affordable housing that cost between $900 and $1,250 per month. The greatest need for very-low-cost units (less than $500 per month) is in the North, West and East wards. 

Officials said the plan is to create a development compliance team to hold developers more accountable for putting blighted properties into use. Officials want to digitize the permitting process as well to track development applications and design incentives for expediting approvals on projects that have a community benefit. 

To help neighborhoods severely impacted by the pandemic, the city aims to invest in local partners to support recovery programs as well as launch “shop local’ campaigns and find ways to create affordable commercial space. 

One local program that plans to help Newark communities as part of the city’s recovery is Invest Newark, an organization that works to create economic opportunities for area residents and businesses. 

In March, the organization already undertook one initiative to lead Newark through its post-COVID economic recovery with the launch of its Land Bank program

The land bank is the first of its kind to launch in New Jersey following legislation Gov. Phil Murphy passed in 2019. The program allows state municipalities to designate a land bank entity to obtain vacant, abandoned, and neglected properties for productive reuse purposes.

“We are going to be providing more procurement opportunities and technical services, more grants and loans, as well as doing more Land Bank programs to give these businesses a chance to expand their operations inexpensively by buying blighted properties,” Invest Newark President and CEO Bernel Hall told TAPinto Newark.

As ambitious as the recovery plan may be to get Newarkers back on their feet, the mayor noted multiple obstacles still stand in the way given COVID-19’s impact on the city. 

“It would be a mistake not to analyze how detrimental this pandemic has been to us,” he said. 

Last year, approximately 16,000 residents lost their jobs between February and May, according to data from the city. At its peak, Newark’s unemployment rate rose to 19%. One year later, the city’s unemployment rate remains high, hovering at 11%, according to the city. 

The pandemic also wreaked havoc on job losses most notably in four sectors: hospitality, healthcare/social services, retail and other services. In total, these four sectors alone comprised 60% of all jobs lost, resulting in nearly $60 million to $100 million lost in consumer spending, according to the city.

“We’re still recovering,” the mayor said.

Starting in July, the city’s first package of recovery initiatives will go into effect. These efforts will include the implementation of the following programs over the course of the next eight weeks: 

  • Expanded emergency rental assistance
  • Expanded small business emergency assistance
  • Five-year affordable housing goals
  • A portal of available affordable housing
  • “Back Together Again,” a series of community solidarity events
  • Additional neighborhood redevelopment designations
  • NewarkGo, a low-cost transportation pilot using dockless bikes and e-scooters

"We believe it's going to take all of us together to begin investing in our community to get it restarted faster than it was prior to the pandemic," the mayor said. "That's what the goal is - to make up for the year that we lost." 

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-06-25 03:39:11 -0700