Local grant program to aid Princeton businesses during COVID-19 pandemic

Northbound of Witherspoon Street in Princeton features curbside pickup and outdoor dining designations on June 23.

Even as a statewide reopening moves forward, small businesses in Princeton continue to grapple with the economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic.

Through the Princeton Small Businesses Resiliency Relief Fund (PSBRF), a local grant program was established to provide these Princeton businesses with emergency relief. The program is designed to provide financial aid to those small businesses to address expenses due to reopening and new guidelines to conducting business during the pandemic.

“There is an initial commitment of $250,000 to the fund from Princeton University and they have also offered up to a $100,000 dollar for dollar match for additional donations,” Councilwoman Michelle Lambros said. “We are continuing to look for additional donations. We want to maximize that match and do all that is possible to get more donations.”

Since the grant program’s announcement on June 26, applications for grants up to $5,000 are being accepted through July 31. Grant applications by businesses must be submitted during this period to be considered for a grant in this first cycle of funding.

“We will take in all the applications and the application process will close on July 31. Then a Grant Review Committee will make the final determinations based on the number of applicants and amount of funding that we have,” Lambros said.

After July 31, a committee of Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce Foundation members and community leaders will facilitate the grant application process, according to Lambros.

“Township officials are in no way involved in the actual review of the grant applications,” she added.

The idea for the PSBRF grant program came about when Mayor Liz Lempert and Lambros were looking at other municipalities around the country who were also implementing funds such as PSBRF.

“We really started talking about this at the end of March and beginning of April. At that time, we were looking at research on how this program could be structured, so that donors could have a 501(c)(3) tax deductible and be able to give money to for profit companies,” Lambros said. “The sooner we can get money into the hands of the small businesses the better. We have the process set up.”

Approved applications of Princeton small businesses will receive the $5,000 grants in early August.

“The grant funding is to be utilized for COVID-19 related expenses. A maximum of 50% of the approved grant can be used for marketing,” she said.

Approved expenses include supplies for business reopening operating guidelines, cashless payment systems, telecom and internet connectivity, retrofitting or remodeling of retail space to facilitate social distancing inside and outside of the business; and providing emergency employee assistance with childcare expenses during the pandemic.

“For businesses to be eligible they must have 25 full-time equivalent employees or less,” Lambros said.

Other eligibility requirements include that the applicant must be a Princeton storefront business located in the municipality and open to the general public; have less than $2 million in annual gross revenue and $5 million or less in revenue for restaurant operations; and have a credit score of 650 or above, according to PSBRF eligibility criteria.

“If there are more demands for the grants than we have of grant funding then the Grant Review Committee will look at the tie-breaker criteria,” Lambros said. “That additional criteria includes persons of color, women, and businesses buying from local suppliers.”

For more information about the PSBRF’s grant program and how to apply or donate, visit www.princetonresiliencyfund.org.