Rep. Chris Smith announce CARES Act funding for small businesses

Middletown mayor, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith announce CARES Act funding for small businesses

October 16, 2020

Alex N. Gecan, Asbury Park Press

MIDDLETOWN — If you run a small business in Middletown, the township may have $15,000 worth of good news for you.

The township will begin awarding grants of up to $15,000 for businesses with up to 50 employees through the new Middletown Economic Relief Program, Mayor Tony Perry announced Thursday. The township has approximately $400,000 in grants, obtained through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, to distribute to local businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These are all businesses giving back to our community, making our community a better place — making Middletown a great place to live, work and raise a family,” Perry said at a press event Thursday at the Fountain Ridge Plaza on Route 35.

“COVID has devastated everything we knew and know and has changed everything,” U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., said at the press event. “The question has always been, how do we get a bridge from where we were before COVID-19 to where we can thrive again?”

Middletown business owners attended the event Thursday and spoke with reporters afterward.

“We did the (Paycheck Protection Program) in the second round and we needed that desperately,” said Stephanie Cartier. She and her husband Mark co-founded No Limits Café, a non-profit restaurant that trains and employs adults with intellectual disabilities. The café was open only two and a half weeks when it had to shut down because of COVID-19.

“Getting the PPP enabled us to reopen to do takeout,” Cartier said. “Without that, we wouldn’t have been able to support ourselves … it was a time when you really couldn’t go to donors for help because people weren’t working and it was a very unsure time.”

A virtual fundraiser in April helped lift the café out of the lockdown doldrums, and morning dance parties on Zoom helped keep morale up, Cartier said.

Still, “It was a hard time,” Cartier said. “We had to retrain a lot of our employees.”

Shati Sinclair, who runs a Code Ninjas franchise, said without a grant he received from Monmouth County,  he may have been out of business. Code Ninjas teaches children ages 7 through 14 how to write computer code.

“Once that came in, I was like ‘Thank God,'” he said. “My cable bill was up to $600. The money came and it just went because all the bills were already there.”

Sinclair said a grant like the ones announced Thursday could keep him going for two months.

Monmouth County Freeholder Director Tom Arnone also spoke at the press event, adding that the county has relief funds it is portioning out as well. Perry said that obtaining relief through the county would not prevent a business from applying for a grant through the township.

Smith is up for reelection this year in New Jersey’s 4th Congressional District, facing a challenge from novice Democrat Stephanie Schmid. Like Perry and Arnone, who also spoke Thursday, Smith is a Republican.

Details for how to apply for the grants are available on the township’s website. The grants are available to township businesses regardless of whether the owners live in town.