Baraka to federal government on COVID-19 pandemic: 'We need help'

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Downtown Newark (City of Newark, NJ - City Hall photo)
Urban News Staff Reports

Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka recently held a press conference at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center at  to discuss the City’s many efforts to slow the spread of the deadly COVID-19 disease and mitigate its impact on the physical and financial health of Newark residents, while calling on help from the federal government to avoid cuts in City services.

“We need help,” Baraka said, pointing out that federal relief packages offered billions to large corporations and businesses, but little to help medium-sized cities like Newark. “If we don't get help, we may have to look at furloughs of our City employees and possibly buyouts,” which could impact vital City services in dealing with COVID-19 crisis.

 In the early stages of the pandemic, the city put in several of its own stimulus/aid packages to help residents. Those packages, and the additional burden on health, public safety and sanitation services have put a significant dent in the City budget.

Baraka said he was asking the federal delegation including Sens. Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, and Reps. Albio Sires and Donald Payne, Jr., to push legislation to get replacement funding for the City. The Mayor also noted his support for the legislation being introduced by Senator Menendez which would allocate $500 billion to state and local governments in all U.S. states and territories. It would prioritize funding to the hardest hit states, using a formula that considers state population, infection rates, and revenue loss and it would increase the flexible use of funding so it can be spent to plug unforeseen revenue gaps.

Members of Baraka's administration answered questions about the City’s shelter-in-place orders and enforcement, health department services, inspection and sanitizing of senior centers, and short-term housing for people without addresses or others who needed to be quarantined.

 While the health and well-being of all Newark residents was the Mayor’s top priority, the Mayor created a $6 million stimulus/aid package to make grants and forgivable loans available for Newark’s small business owners and their employees, homeowners and homebuyers, landlords and tenants, and the culture and non-profit community. For more information on these programs go to https://www.newarknj.gov/news

As a result of these investments of Newark’s budgetary funds, Baraka is asking for federal help to replenish lost revenue so the City can continue the upward trajectory of growth and services it was experiencing before the COVID-19 crisis and support new, ongoing needs the virus created.

This week, Baraka also announced Baraka today announced the first awards under the City’s Small Business Emergency Fund, to support small businesses directly impacted by COVID-19. The first round was funded by a contribution from Prudential Financial. The second round will include grants funded by the City of Newark plus federal and private sources.

There were 21 grantees to businesses from throughout the city, and grants ranged from $2,500 to the maximum grant amount of $10,000. The businesses employ a total of between 50 and 101 workers. 1,249 businesses have applied to date, and 475 have completed applications.

With $2 million earmarked for this program, the City is offering grants to provide working capital for operating costs, payroll, accounts payable, inventory, equipment, rent, taxes, licensing or other business-related expenses. Invest Newark is providing partnership and technical assistance to the small businesses applying for this and other federal, state and local programs.

“Newark’s small businesses are experiencing one of the greatest challenges in our history,” Baraka said. “We didn’t stand by and wait for help from other sources. Newark moved immediately to solve our own problems. It is clear from the strong response to this program, that much more funding is needed to meet the need. We are seeking additional public funds, and I call upon other major Newark businesses to join Prudential in contributing to this fund.”

To qualify, businesses must have a physical establishment located in Newark; have 10 employees or less; show loss of income directly tied to the Coronavirus crisis; and businesses that owe any money to the City have their applications placed at bottom of list.

 “We are thrilled to be able to provide this support to our small business community,” said Catherine Wilson, President and CEO of the United Way of Greater Newark. “These initial awards are going to make a huge impact for small business owners. We look forward to making additional awards over the next several weeks.”

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