Newark sets up $6M fund for residents, businesses losing money in coronavirus crisis

Posted Mar 25, 2020

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka plans to create a fund of up to $6 million with public and private money to help businesses, the homeless, arts organizations, homeowners and nonprofits amid the coronavirus crisis.

Six programs for different sectors will be introduced throughout the next few days, the mayor said Wednesday. Additional information about how people can apply for these funds will be unveiled in the coming days, a city spokesman said.

“The federal bailout will help some, but we need more and we can do more to help our city thrive,” Baraka said in a statement. “We need to take action right now, today to help the residents and small businesses weather this health emergency and continue to thrive once we are on the other side of it.”

It was not immediately clear how much money the city would invest in the fund and how much would come from private contributions. Newark created a similar fund to provide free legal representation for renters facing eviction, but TAPinto Newark reported the city had a hard time getting philanthropic contributions for the program.

The mayor called on private investors and the philanthropic community to invest in these programs to protect the city’s economic growth before the COVID-19 crisis. Prudential, which is headquartered in Newark, said it was “proud to step forward” and help during this time.

“The City of Newark has always been there for Prudential and we are committed to Mayor Baraka’s top priorities to serve small businesses, families, the nonprofit sector, and the most vulnerable among us, who are so often hit the hardest in times of crisis,” said Shané Harris, vice president of corporate social responsibility at Prudential Financial.

Prudential Financial has donated $1 million to Newark and New Jersey amid the coronavirus crisis, a company spokeswoman said.

The company has contributed $300,000 to the city and $600,000 to the United Way of Greater Newark, which is administering funds to support the city’s initiatives to help those losing money due to coronavirus. Another $100,000 will be used at the state level towards the governor’s priorities, a Prudential Financial spokeswoman said.

Prudential also donated medical supplies to the state this week and is administering $500,000 to support relief organizations and businesses in the United States and other countries where the company a large number of employees.

One of the city’s contributions to the fund will come in the form of tax reductions for developers.

Baraka directed the tax assessor to reassess property values for developers who have buildings with business tenants negatively impacted by COVID-19. Those buildings will be reassessed to reduce the taxes owed to the city and the tax savings will have to be passed along to small business tenants through rent reductions, the city said.

The United Way of Greater Newark, a nonprofit that often works with the city, will also administer the new small business emergency grant fund, which is slated to be unveiled on Wednesday during Baraka’s virtual town hall on Facebook.

The mayor earlier this month placed a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures in Newark for 60 days. He also ordered a 60-day grace period for payments to Newark utilities, including water and sewer bills.

The different programs will be announced over the next few days until April 3, the city said. They include:

1. An investment of up to $2 million in a small business and non-profit emergency fund with grants up to $10,000 for 200 qualified businesses.

2. Approximately $1 million investment in rapid, short-term rental housing for 300 of the most vulnerable Newark residents, including the homeless.

3. Up to $1 million investment in community-based non-profits that serve Newark residents.

4. A $1 million investment in the “Live Newark” program to provide downpayment and rehabilitation funds for up to 100 Newark homeowners.

5. Up to $750,000 arts initiative investment that will assist up to 30 arts and cultural organizations with operating funds and capital funds.

6. Savings from tax reassessments aimed at helping lower business tenants’ rents.

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