A New Jersey state agency will be awarding millions of dollars to restaurants and the smallest businesses hit by the pandemic.

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority's Phase 3 of its Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program has $70 million to boost businesses, including $35 million for restaurants, another $15 million for businesses with no more than five employees and $20 million for businesses with up to 50 workers.

The program has been helping businesses since the height of the pandemic in April, initially offering $5,000 grants for restaurants and small retail stores. In June, the NJEDA used $50 million in CARES Act funds to offer more grants, including larger sums of up to $10,000 for a broader range of businesses.

So far, the program has awarded $65 million with another $10 million being processed.

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NJEDA CEO Tim Sullivan said tens of thousands of applications have been received for the various programs and expects the same amount of applications for Phase 3.

He said he's heard from many small businesses about how impactful this money has been for them. The money is a lifeline helping businesses pay their rent, mortgage, loans and employees.

Just like in Phase 2, the NJEDA plans to reserve a third of the money for businesses located in Opportunity Zone-eligible census tracts. That resulted in 20% of the money in Phase 2 going to minority-owned firms with about 24% awarded to women-owned firms.

Pre-registration for Phase 3 opened Monday and will stay open for 10 days. On Oct. 29, there will be an application process for the restaurants. Micro-businesses can start applying on Oct. 30. The application window for all other eligible businesses will open Nov. 2.

All information can be found at https://cv.business.nj.gov.

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