Grants to Micro Lenders Will Fund Loans and Technical Assistance for Smallest Businesses and Non-Profits

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) Board approved the creation of the Main Street Lenders Grant at its February Board meeting on Wednesday. This pilot product, funded with $15 million from the Main Street Recovery Program, will offer lending grants of up to $1 million to be used by eligible micro-business lenders to create new or supplement existing micro business loan products.

The Main Street Lenders Grant is the third of several products the NJEDA is launching under the Main Street Recovery Program. Created under the Economic Recovery Act of 2020 (ERA), which was signed by Governor Phil Murphy in January 2020, the Main Street Recovery Program is a $100 million small business support program that will fund multiple financial assistance products aimed at supporting the growth and success of small businesses in New Jersey. More information is available at https://www.njeda.com/main-street-recovery-fund/.

New Jersey-based Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) serving New Jersey micro and small businesses, Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs), and other eligible lenders, as defined under the ERA, will be eligible to apply for the Main Street Lenders Grant.

In line with Governor Murphy’s commitment to equity, each approved entity must lend and disburse at least 40 percent of Main Street Lenders Grant funding to businesses and nonprofits in Opportunity Zone-eligible census tracts.

“Even before COVID-19, businesses in underserved communities faced struggles with accessing capital, and NJEDA’s lending partners have long helped to ensure that micro businesses, nonprofits, and other small businesses have access to the capital they need,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan. “Their role is more vital than ever as businesses continue their recovery from the pandemic. The Main Street Lenders Grant is an essential element of the comprehensive and intentional suite of small business solutions created by the legislature and being rolled out through the ERA under Governor Murphy’s leadership.”

The Main Street Lenders Grant will offer two types of grants to eligible entities. The first is a lending grant. This grant of up to $1 million will be used as funding for new micro business lending products or as supplemental funding for existing micro business lending products.

Recognizing that micro businesses not only need financing, but may also need assistance with applying and qualifying for such financing, the second type of grant that will be made available through this product is a technical assistance grant. This grant will support eligible entities with the costs associated with providing technical assistance to micro businesses to best prepare and position these micro businesses to qualify for micro business loans. The maximum technical assistance grant an eligible entity can receive is 50 percent of their lending grant amount (not to exceed $500,000). Only lenders that receive a lending grant are eligible for the technical assistance grant. The intent is for these grants to enable lenders to provide micro businesses with technical assistance, and then offer a loan product to the micro business upon completion of the technical assistance.

“The NJEDA works with its lending partners to improve access to capital for the smallest businesses, who often face struggles getting the funds they need to build their resilience and position themselves for growth,” said Christina Fuentes, NJEDA’s Managing Director of Community Development. “As we emerge from the pandemic, this grant will extend NJEDA’s reach by expanding the capacity of its lending partners to support more micro businesses by abating barriers to accessing capital.”

Any lender applying for the lending grant must have a demonstrated history of 10 years’ experience serving small and micro businesses, and any entity applying for the technical assistance grant must demonstrate two years’ experience providing technical assistance to micro businesses – either directly, or in collaboration with a technical assistance partner.

Among other requirements, products created by eligible entities using the Main Street Lenders Grant must provide loans of $10,000 to $100,000 for micro businesses that have fewer than 10 full time employees and less than $1.5 million in annual revenue at the time of application. The business must also have a commercial location in New Jersey, which can be a home-based business. Home-based businesses, non-profit organizations, for-profit entities, sole proprietors, and/or startups may be eligible to participate in the program that will be funded through the Main Street Lenders Grant. Complete eligibility requirements for the lending products that will be offered can be found at https://www.njeda.com/financing-and-incentives/.

The Main Street Lenders Grant serves as a complement to direct funding provided under the Main Street Recovery Program through the recently-launched Small Business Lease Grant and Small Business Improvement Grant.

Signed in January 2021, the ERA creates a package of programs that includes tax credits to incentivize job creation, new construction, and revitalization of brownfields and historic properties; financial resources for small businesses; support for new supermarkets and healthy food retailers in food desert communities; new funding opportunities for early-stage companies in New Jersey; and support for the growing film and digital media industry.

Article Courtesy of the NJEDA