A group of small business owners in New Jersey is the latest to criticize how New Jersey is awarding federal money to help recover from Superstorm Sandy, complaining the state has parceled out only a fraction of the grant money set aside for them.
New Jersey Citizen Action says the state has awarded only $12.5 million in grants through the Stronger NJ program for small businesses. The government watchdog group called on the state to make awards by May 1 so businesses — many of them at the shore — can prepare accordingly for the summer tourism season.
For instance, Marilyn Schlossbach, owner of three restaurants in Asbury Park and one in Normandy Beach, said she submitted an application for a grant last year, but then had trouble reaching anyone to help with follow-up questions. And when she did, she said she was told to resubmit the paperwork she had previously completed.
Meanwhile, Schlossbach said, the offseason has been a struggle for her businesses in communities that are still depopulated after the October 2012 storm — making a grant even more important.
“It’s not going to build me anything better,” she said. “It’s going to sustain me until the summer.”
There has been deep frustration from residents with the administration of a housing rebuilding program, but relative quiet on the business grant program.
There was not much public protest in November when Gov. Chris Christie’s administration announced it was moving $160 million of the $260 million originally allocated to Stronger NJ into the oversubscribed home rebuilding program.
But Corinne Horowitz, who works on Citizen Action’s NJ Main Street Alliance program, said some business owners are afraid of being blacklisted for speaking out. She also said that hearings on the state’s plans to use federal Sandy recovery money have been held at times inconvenient for restaurant owners.
The business grant program is for Sandy-damaged businesses with revenue between $25,000 and $5 million annually.
An official from New Jersey Economic Development Authority, which runs the program, planned to comment later Wednesday about the complaints.
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