$240M program and tax credit sale aims to attract & strengthen supermarkets in food desert communities; enables NJEDA to establish innovative programs to combat food insecurity
TRENTON, N.J. (April 12, 2023) – The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) Board today approved proposed rules for the $240 million Food Desert Relief Tax Credit Program, which will help address food access challenges by attracting and retaining new supermarkets in the 50 Food Desert Communities (FDCs) designated by the NJEDA last year. Additionally, the Board approved the sale of up to $50 million of the $240 million in tax credits in 2023, the proceeds of which will fund future grant, loan, and technical assistance programs under the Food Desert Relief Act (FDRA). These programs will help increase availability of nutritious foods and develop new approaches to alleviate food insecurity.
The FDRA was established by the New Jersey Economic Recovery Act (ERA) of 2020 and signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy in January 2021. As authorized by the ERA, the Board approved proposed rules that will allow the NJEDA to launch the Food Desert Relief Tax Credit Program this year.
“Food insecurity is a widespread and longstanding issue that has been exacerbated by the pandemic, and New Jersey is taking innovative steps to ensure no resident goes hungry,” said Governor Murphy. “By expanding grocery options in an intentional manner, more families across our state’s food desert communities will be able to put affordable and healthy food on their tables. Fighting food insecurity fosters greater wellbeing for countless communities and families, advancing our vision for a truly stronger, fairer New Jersey economy.”
“Every New Jersey resident deserves equitable access to fresh and healthy food options, no matter their zip code. The NJEDA is committed to fighting food insecurity and the Food Desert Relief Tax Credit program will help bring new grocery options to food deserts across the state,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan. “Under Governor Murphy’s leadership and in partnership with Speaker Craig Coughlin and the legislature, New Jersey is working to ensure nutritious foods are accessible and affordable in every community, and this program will further advance the ERA’s goals of fighting food insecurity, creating jobs, and uplifting neighborhoods.”
“I am thrilled to see this program moving forward as we prioritize addressing the problem of food insecurity in New Jersey. This program will help those communities build and sustain healthy, affordable options and grow local business. This is good health and economic policy, in addition to meeting our moral obligations,” said Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin. “This is among my proudest moments in public life. Fighting hunger and food insecurity in our state has been close to my heart for decades. I thank all the partners who have worked together to make this program a reality.”
The Food Desert Relief Tax Credit program establishes two types of tax credits that encourage resiliency of supermarkets for a lasting impact on communities. Both are available to new and rehabilitated supermarkets within the areas designated as FDCs, which span all 21 New Jersey counties and are home to over 1.5 million residents. The Financing Gap Tax Credit will provide up to 40 percent of project’s costs for development of the first new supermarket located in any one FDC, and up to 20 percent for the second new supermarket. The Initial Operating Cost Tax Credit will be available to supermarket operators to help fill a shortfall in initial operating income.
To be eligible, stores must be located within the boundaries of NJEDA-designated FDCs. Applicants must demonstrate that the project would not be feasible without the tax credit award and demonstrate that the supermarket will remain open for business for at least seven years. Applicants must also commit that the supermarket will accept federal benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program from Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Additionally, supermarkets must devote at least 10 percent of retail space to fresh and/or frozen fruits and vegetables and host a community listening session in the FDC at least once a year. A complete overview of the rules and more information on the Food Desert Relief Tax Credit program can be found here.
The FDRA allocates $40 million per year for six years, totaling $240 million, in tax credits and enables NJEDA to sell a portion of the tax credits to support future grant, loan, and technical assistance programs. Today, the Board approved the sale of up to $50 million in tax credits. Proceeds from the sale will be used to support programs that will advance the priorities established by the FDRA and be available to a wide array of organizations, companies, and retailers to strengthen food security in FDCs. These programs will support costs associated with equipment and technology to make nutritious foods more accessible and affordable, as well as other initiatives to ensure food security of FDC residents.
“This is another critical step in Governor Murphy’s comprehensive plan to address food insecurity and bring nutritious foods to every community,” said NJEDA Executive Vice President for Economic Security Tara Colton. “New supermarkets in food deserts will help ensure every resident has access to groceries regardless of their address and income. Furthermore, the sale of tax credits will expand NJEDA’s toolkit to eliminate barriers to nutritious foods by creating innovative programs that will improve the lives of families, kids, and seniors – empowering the transformation of entire communities.”
In line with the Murphy Administration’s Executive Order 63 and the NJEDA’s commitment to transparency and accountability, and in anticipation of today’s vote, the NJEDA publicly posted a summary the Food Desert Relief Tax Credit program proposed rules at the end of 2022 and actively sought public feedback. This process included two public listening sessions and opportunities to submit written feedback.
The NJEDA, in collaboration with the Departments of Community Affairs and Agriculture, previously designated 50 FDCs across the state, approved by the NJEDA Board in February 2022. These FDCs will be served by a variety of programs to increase access to affordable, nutritious food through funding for supermarkets, small- and mid-size retailers, and other entities that support food security initiatives.
The Food Desert Relief Tax Credit Program is part of NJEDA’s broader portfolio of work focused on food security, including the Food Security Planning Grant, Sustain & Serve NJ, and Food Retail Innovation in Delivery Grant (FRIDG). More information on the Food Desert Relief Act and Food Desert Community designations can be found here.
In addition to the FDRA, the ERA creates a suite of programs that includes tax credits to incentivize job creation, new construction, and revitalization of brownfields; financial resources for small businesses; new funding opportunities for early-stage companies in New Jersey; and support for the growing film and digital media industry. Additional information on these programs is available here.
The NJEDA Board’s approval of the proposed regulations are subject to the Governor’s veto period and Office of Administrative Law review prior to becoming effective.