NJBIZ | Christie rolls out forgivable loan program for NJ businesses (updated)

New Jersey’s most-recent former governor and First Lady unveiled a forgivable loan program meant to offer a lifeline to businesses that have taken a financial hit from the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic recession.

Called the “New Jersey 30-Day Fund,” businesses would be able to apply for forgivable loans of up to $3,000.

“Our hope is to quickly provide some financial relief to help those businesses who need it most,” former Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, said in a Friday statement, along with his wife Mary Pat Christie.

Eligibility would be limited to businesses with between three and 30 employees that are owned and operated by a New Jersey resident and have been in operation for at least one year.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at the Institute of Public Policy lecture, held at the Seton Hall Law School in Newark on Sept. 26, 2019.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at the Institute of Public Policy lecture, held at the Seton Hall Law School in Newark on Sept. 26, 2019. – DANIEL J. MUNOZ

“It’s a one-page application and up to three-minute video you have to submit,” Mary Pat added in an interview with NJBIZ. “We’re trying to help the type of people that are falling through the cracks, and aren’t able to fill out a complicated loan request.”

Applicants would get an answer in three days on whether they were approved.

And it’s already gotten roughly 100 applicants since going live Friday morning, the former governor said.

“Sometimes the answer will be no, or it could be ‘hold on, we don’t have the money yet’,” Christie said.

“They’ll get one of three answers: Where do we wire the money, no you don’t meet our criteria, or maybe, pending, as we wait to see how much” money and donations are coming in.

With any loans that are repaid to the nonprofit – which is optional – the money could in turn be lent out to other businesses.

The former governor and Mary Pat are donating $100,000 to the fund to get it started, and plan to cover the costs of any operating expenses. Roughly 60 volunteers and interns from Christie’s alma mater, Seton Hall University – all students, would be involved with the staffing.

Applications, as well as donations, can be submitted on the fund’s website, nj30dayfund.com.

Christie said the fund is modeled after a similar program in Virginia, the Virginia 30-Day Fund.

“In five short weeks we have funded over 300 struggling small businesses from all across the Commonwealth,” said Peter Snyder, the Virginia fund’s founder and chief executive officer of Disruptor Capital, said in the Friday statement.

“It was apparent that the quick turnaround was a life-saver for small businesses which were waiting to reopen,” Mary Pat said of the program in Virginia. The hope, she said, is to be “up and running and providing loans this week.”

The Murphy administration has employed a variety of state aid programs meant to infuse businesses with cash as they stay closed under the governor’s orders, or operate at an extremely limited capacity.

All of these restrictions have been instituted to prevent the spread of COVID-19 across the state. Although the approach has been working, the process has decimated business revenue, forcing many layoffs and furloughs, and many businesses to close for food.

But the programs have quickly run out of money.

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority rolled out applications in April for a $5 million small business grant program, which ran dry in just over an hour. Later that month, a $10 million small business loan program ran out of money in roughly half an hour, with more than 3,260 businesses applying for a combined $228.7 million of loans.

Then this past Tuesday, a $45 million second round of grant funding for small businesses ran out of money four hours after applications went live, with more than 20,000 businesses vying for funds.

A similar program, the Paycheck Protection Program, was enacted at the federal level for aiding businesses caught in the same situation across the nation.

“What we hope is that as many small businesses as qualify apply, and we’ll do the best we can to help as many as we can,” Christie said.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 1:10 p.m. EST on June 12, 2020, to include comments from former Gov. Chris Christie and former First Lady Mary Pat Christie.