METUCHEN – Shortly after receiving $19,000 as one of AARP’s Community Challenge 2020 grantees, Metuchen Downtown Alliance (MDA), the non-profit, volunteer-driven downtown management and revitalization organization for Metuchen, has received $295,958 in Main Street New Jersey COVID-19 Relief Program funding from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.
“This grant funding allows us to give direct support to local businesses at a time they need it most,” Isaac Kremer, executive director of the MDA, said in a prepared statement.
Three years into its five-year strategic plan, MDA’s continued work downtown, including public space activations, storefront improvements, a one-stop-shop online business directory, expanded outdoor dining, and more, has made Metuchen a model example for downtown resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the ability to quickly pivot toward 40 reopening grants and additional business resources, according to the statement.
However, as the pandemic continues, MDA remains steadfast in its search for additional funding.
“Every dollar we can direct to small businesses in this time of need gives them a chance to stretch their dollars further to survive this pandemic,” Kremer said in the statement.
The $1.6 million Main Street New Jersey COVID-19 Relief Program provides district management organizations that actively participate in the Main Street New Jersey Program funding for eligible COVID-19 response, recovery and revitalization efforts in small business districts. Funded by the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund, program funds can only be used for expenditures incurred between March 1 and Dec. 30, 2020, such as personal protective equipment and sanitizers, COVID-19 protocol training for employees, permits and fees, and equipment required to reopen and conduct business safely, including outdoor furniture and heaters, plexiglass barriers, additional technological devices, and more, according to the statement.
The AARP Community Challenge grant is intended to fund quick-action programs and long-term progress toward making communities more livable for residents of all ages, according to the statement. MDA will use the grant to support the continued recovery and revitalization of the more than 40 downtown restaurants and 60 retail businesses in Metuchen impacted by interruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As one of 184 grantees selected nationally, MDA will also designate more than $17,000 in cash and $21,000 in volunteer time toward completing projects funded by the grant by Dec. 18, including installations of parklets and lighting, repurposing sidewalks, streets, parking lots, and alleys for continued socially-distanced public activities, the elimination of intersections dangerous to pedestrians, and retail assistance designed to increase online sales.
“Businesses need to create an atmosphere where customers feel safe to spend time and shop, and I feel the funding earned by the MDA has enabled that to happen,” Gary Tilbor, owner of See-More TV & Appliance Center in Metuchen, said in the statement.
Jenny Lai, owner of Picture Perfect Studios in Metuchen, said the MDA’s commitment to finding additional funding goes a long way.
“It shows that this town really does care about its residents, shop owners and visitors,” she said in the statement.