TOMS RIVER – Now more than ever we should all be working to pay it forward especially when it comes to helping those small businesses that are the heartbeat of our communities, said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari.
“Our small businesses have demonstrated a resilience during many difficult times and they have always been there to lend a helping hand,” said Vicari, who serves as liaison to Ocean County tourism and business development. “There are many ways to help these businesses, I encourage everyone to help.”
Ocean County is home to hundreds of small businesses, often referred to as the mom and pop businesses, many of which have been around for decades – they are delicatessens, luncheonettes, pizzerias, hardware stores, home town pharmacies, clothing stores and gift shops among others.
“Some of these businesses are seasonal and others are open year-round,” Vicari said. “Right now they are all suffering major financial losses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Every year around the holidays I talk about the importance of buying local,” he added. “There has never been a more important time than right now to buy local.”
For the stores that are allowed to do business under the Governor’s executive order, Vicari encouraged citizens to use them while also adhering to social distancing and wearing a face mask.
“In some instances, you don’t even have to go to the store or enter the store,” he said. “Many have set up delivery, curbside pickup, ordering processes all to implement social distancing.”
He added other stores like gift shops, small clothing stores, have closed their doors for now but have moved to social media and online shopping opportunities providing a chance to patronize them while staying at home.
He said many eateries and restaurants are serving the public with curbside pickup, deliveries and other ways to get you lunch and dinner with little to no social contact.
“Also I support businesses that have suggested people buy gift cards now online and use them later once stores reopen,” he said. “We have to do all we can personally to help these small businesses while we also protect ourselves with social distancing and staying at home.”
Vicari noted that Ocean County’s seafood industry is also hurting financially.
“Many local fisheries are losing money due to wholesalers not being open, and restaurants not being able to handle their usual menu options,” he said. “Again, I encourage patronizing the seafood businesses that are open so long as social distancing is stressed. The businesses are doing their best to be creative in helping residents.”
For example, Point Lobster in Point Pleasant Beach, posts their prices and inventory everyday online and moved their case closer to the door while Shore Fresh Seafood Market in Point Pleasant Beach offers curbside takeout seven days a week. On the weekends they partner with The Fishermen’s Dock Cooperative for a wholesale fish market. Viking Fresh off the Hook on Long Beach Island offers takeout meals of fresh seafood from the dock next door during limited hours.
“If you can please patronize these businesses while observing social distancing, I encourage you to do so,” he said. “These are the same businesses that buy the ad in the school ad journal and help with auction items and donate to the community. It’s time for us to pay it forward.”
Vicari added that businesses can find information on the Ocean County website at www.co.ocean.nj.us under the View Important Coronavirus Updates page for key links about financial assistance available through state and federal programs for small businesses.
Under the small business links, there is information that is updated regularly about Small Business Administration programs including The Paycheck Protection Program, Emergency Loan Program, and payroll taxes assistance. More information about these programs can also be found on the SBA’s website, sba.gov which you can access from the Ocean County website.
“Small businesses are also encouraged to still apply for assistance under the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program COVID-19 Economic Relief Package,” Vicari said. “That includes small businesses emergency assistance grant program and an emergency assistance loan program.”
He added that unfortunately due to high demand, the funding for NJEDA Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program was quickly exhausted, but by still submitting an application it will ensure that if additional funds become available for this round of Grant funding, those businesses may be eligible.
In addition, applications open at 9 a.m., April 13 for the Small Business Emergency Assistance Loan Program – a $10 million zero- and low- interest loan program providing up to $100,000 to NJ-based small and medium-sized businesses and non-profit organizations. There is a number of other programs out there and information can be found on the NJEDA website at njeda.com which is also linked to our website.
We have also provided a link on our coronavirus web page to all of the area chambers of commerce, and some business organizations. There, residents can find lists of businesses that are open and other helpful information for both businesses and citizens.
“I know we are all trying to do our part to help others during this difficult time,” Vicari said. “My colleagues and I are on the Board of Freeholders want our citizens and businesses to know we deeply appreciate every step you take to help. There is no action too small that doesn’t make a difference in this County.”