July 22, 2020

Princeton Small Business Resiliency Fund Is Busy Processing Grant Applications

By Anne Levin

Three weeks into its campaign to assist small businesses in Princeton that have been affected by the ongoing pandemic, the Princeton Small Business Resiliency Fund (PSBRF) has received more than 30 applications for grants of up to $5,000.

Those administering the fund are hoping that more will apply before the deadline of July 31. “We’re trying to make sure we get the word out to let all of the Princeton businesses know this is available,” said John Goedecke, who is president of the Princeton Regional Chamber Foundation and immediate past president of the Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The fund is a collaboration of the municipality, Princeton University, and the Chamber. The University pledged an initial donation of $250,000 to launch the fund, and has also provided a dollar-for-dollar match of up to $100,000 in additional donations to the fund.

To qualify, for-profit businesses must have 25 or fewer employees, a storefront in the municipality, be open to the general public, and have been in business since September 2019. Qualifying applicants must have less than $2 million in gross annual revenue, or, if a restaurant, up to $5 million.

The idea is to help cover some of the expenses associated with reopening, and to complement state and federal aid. The grants can be used for renovations to accommodate social distancing, adapting websites, cashless payment system expenses, cleaning supplies, protective equipment, and emergency help for employees with child care expenses.

In the event the fund is oversubscribed, women and minority owned businesses will be given preference. Businesses intending to use their grant for purchasing goods and supplies from other local businesses will also be given priority.

The Chamber Foundation is running the fund. Goedecke is hopeful that enough people will donate to the University’s $100,000 challenge. “We’re trying to reach out and raise money,” he said. “They can do an online donation to princetonresiliencyfund.org, or mail a check. Whatever we raise, the University will match. There is no deadline on that.”

Donations so far have come from individuals and organizations. “Stark & Stark [legal firm] recently contributed,” said Goedecke.” We’re hoping the word gets out not only to help with this particular fund, but also to become a good discussion point for areas that might want to do this in their own towns. It speaks to the partnerships that exist between organizations like Princeton University, the Chamber Foundation, local businesses, and the local government.”

Businesses applying for funds should provide a receipt for expenditures already made and/or a purchase order or invoice for expenses that are anticipated. In addition, a written explanation of 250 words or less, expressing how the funds would help overcome the impact of the pandemic to the business, should be included.

The grant program is not available for commercial or residential real estate businesses, corporately owned chain businesses, those that conduct most business remotely, independent consultants, and businesses that are residentially based.

The committee reviewing the grants includes Goedecke, former Council members Bernie Miller and Lance Liverman, Peter Dawson, Esther Tanez, Hilary Spivak, Mara Franceschi, Jigna Rao, and Elizabeth Wagner. Assisting in the evaluation process is the Union County Economic Development Corporation. The advisory committee includes Kristin Appelget, Rachel Stark, Jeffrey Vega, Chamber President and CEO Peter Crowley, Mayor Liz Lempert, and Councilwoman Michelle Pirone Lambros.

Goedecke wants all qualifying businesses to be aware of the opportunity. “There has been a lot of interest from those who know about it. But we want to make sure we reach everybody – especially the super-micro-businesses that don’t have the financial wherewithal to keep going right now,” he said.