July 1, 2020

Financial Help is On the Way For Local Small Businesses

By Anne Levin

Small businesses in Princeton that meet certain criteria will get a much-needed financial infusion thanks to a collaboration between the municipality, Princeton University, and the Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The Princeton Small Business Resiliency Fund (PSBRF), announced at the virtual meeting of the Princeton Merchants Association last week, intends to provide up to $5,000 to for-profit businesses that have 25 or fewer employees, a storefront in the municipality, are 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.

Applications are being accepted through July 31.

Princeton University has pledged an initial donation of $250,000 to launch the fund. The University will also provide a dollar-for-dollar match of up to $100,000 in additional donations to the fund.

“This has taken some time to put together,” said Kristin Appelget, the University’s director of community and regional affairs. “I can’t reinforce enough the leadership of Mayor Lempert and [Councilwoman] Michelle Pirone Lambros, and we couldn’t have done it without the Chamber.”

The initiative marks the second phase of the Princeton University Relief Fund (PURF), which was established in April with a $1 million commitment to help community organizations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The first phase, a donation of $500,000, was disbursed to organizations addressing food and housing insecurity, child care, and behavioral and mental health needs.

The small business grants are targeted to help cover some of the expenses associated with reopening, and are designed 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.

Should the fund be over-subscribed, preference will be given to women and minority-owned businesses, as well as those that intend to use their grant money to buy goods and services from other local providers.

The grant review committee includes former Council members Bernie Miller and Lance Liverman, John Goedecke, 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 Appelget, Rachel Stark, Jeffrey Vega, Chamber President and CEO Peter Crowley, Lempert, and Lambros.

The Princeton Mercer Chamber’s Community Development Fund has also awarded a $10,000 grant to support the Trenton Small Business Relief Fund to help small businesses in the capital city survive the pandemic.

“We are proud to work with Greater Trenton and provide this grant as a means of supporting businesses in our Capitol City,” said Crowley, in a press release.  “We will continue to work with organizations across the region organized to help our business community recover during these pivotal times.” 

For information about applying for a grant or making a donation, visit princetonresiliencyfund.org.