Councilman: Jackson businesses feeling pinch of pandemic

JACKSON – Seven months into the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, numerous Jackson businesses have been negatively impacted and/or closed their doors.

Township Councilman Martin Flemming owns County Line Hardware on Bennetts Mills Road.

In an interview, Flemming said he does not know the exact number of Jackson businesses that have closed as a result of the pandemic, “but I do know several of the closures have been noteworthy, from township mainstays like the Jackson Diner and White Butterfly, to newer, but larger facilities like Tilton’s Fitness in the Meridian building.”

“It is also important to remember that a business closing is just one scenario and there are many, many other ways in which businesses are suffering right now. Unfortunately, it seems inevitable that more (businesses) will join the list of those which just cannot survive this” health crisis, Flemming said.

The councilman went on to say “it would be easy to point to the financial burden businesses and individuals have strained to carry these past months, but I think even greater is the isolation people have felt from a social perspective.

“The seniors, who are most at risk, are taking this virus seriously and staying home, which is appropriate, but people need to be with people. I believe in-person interaction has been curtailed to an unhealthy level,” Flemming said.

“Restaurants and entertainment venues seem to have taken the brunt of this issue, of course because the restrictions put in place have had much more stringent requirements and very direct impacts.

“It seems retail (businesses) and professional offices have been able to make operational adjustments and continue doing business, if even at a reduced rate. This seems to have softened the blow somewhat,” Flemming said.

The Jackson councilman said state and federal programs have been made available to help business operators.

“There are state and federal programs to help businesses make it out the other side of this. While there are not currently any local programs in place, I have been encouraged by seeing our residents band together to support their local businesses during a very trying time.

“Many restaurants in town have kept their doors open thanks to a healthy take-out business that has been bolstered by a town that has decided to buy local and that is great.

“I would say though, that the programs being offered just do not seem like enough for those that are suffering. It seems, at the state level, the governor is trying to trade total safety for the livelihoods and dreams of our citizens.

“The problem with the bargain is that total safety is not something he can provide and these businesses, the livelihoods, these dreams are a big part of people’s lives and they want to get back to them,” Flemming said.

On Oct. 9, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) announced that more than 20,000 businesses have been approved for coronavirus relief since March.

In total, the authority has approved 20,073 businesses for more than $74.2 million in support through grants, low cost loans, partnerships with investors and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), and technical assistance programs, according to a press release from the NJEDA.

NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan was quoted in the press release saying, “The economic impact of this pandemic is extraordinary and ongoing, and our efforts to do all we can to support small businesses must continue as well.”

The NJEDA’s suite of coronavirus relief programs provides a variety of resources for businesses of all sizes, including grants for small businesses, zero interest loans, support for private sector lenders and CDFIs, and funding for entrepreneurs, according to the press release.

In addition to financial support, the authority has also provided technical assistance programs for businesses that are struggling to adjust to new health and safety guidelines, according to the press release.

Information about the NJEDA’s coronvirus response is available at