NEWARK, NJ – Newark was a booming city before the COVID pandemic hit. And on Thursday, officials released details of a plan to keep that economic momentum going.
Speaking at a press conference at the Kleen Kutz Unisex Beauty Salon on Bergen Street, Mayor Ras Baraka presented a two-year plan to revive the city’s economy and help small businesses. The choice of location was no coincidence; the show is one of many in Newark that have already benefited from the city’s previous pandemic recovery grants.
According to Newark officials, the new program will help small businesses like Kleen Kutz connect with grants, technical assistance and other services to support their recovery and bring back customers.
“The plan will use federal funding from 2021 US bailout legislation to build a technology cluster, create permanently affordable retail space, provide free or low-cost broadband access to small businesses through Newark Fiber, and accelerate development approvals. the city’s workforce system to ensure Newarkers – especially the unemployed, underemployed and residents facing barriers to employment – are connected to good employment opportunities. “
The officials added:
“The plan was developed in collaboration with Bloomberg Associates, a charitable philanthropic consultancy firm that works with cities and mayors around the world. It draws on ideas from the Newark Equitable Growth Commission, recommendations from Newark Forward, national best practices and work done. through the Reopening and Recovery Strike Force and other economic development strategies. In addition, the city’s Department of Economic Development and Housing met with local stakeholders and conducted an extensive awareness campaign over a period of four months to better understand what Newark needs to support a sustainable and equitable recovery. “
“This plan is a map for a stronger, fairer and more prosperous Newark,” said Baraka.
“After this incredibly difficult year of mourning, loss and economic uncertainty, we have taken the leap,” continued the mayor. “We are fortunate to have an historic level of investment from the federal government that is providing the kind of support our small businesses and residents need.
“Before the pandemic, Newark was experiencing a period of rapid investment and economic expansion guided by our principles of equitable growth,” added Baraka. “This plan repeats that progress.”
Here are some of the things the money will go to, officials said:
- Newark will aim to be the first city in America to offer free or low-cost broadband access to all small businesses and will work with Invest Newark to extend Newark fiber to the five neighborhoods.
- City to reduce costs for small businesses by deferring business fees / taxes, eliminating code compliance penalties / fees, and developing a utility assistance program on sewer and water bills
- City of Newark to Hire Dedicated FTE Focused on Growing and Supporting Newark’s Startup / Tech Cluster
- City of Newark to hire business development manager (s) to create sector strategies
- The City of Newark will create a Development Compliance Team by hiring two FTEs to monitor and enforce developers’ compliance with contractual obligations under PILOT and redevelopment agreements, and review and enforce redevelopment agreements
- In collaboration with Invest Newark and other partners, the City of Newark will develop a set of criteria and a map to guide the strategic location of new housing in Newark neighborhoods and support equitable development goals.
- The City of Newark will begin the process of implementing an inward and outward facing digital system to track development requests, and design incentives and other mechanisms to expedite approvals on projects that have benefits for the community
- City to fund technical assistance to local economic development partners to help small businesses reopen and recover
- City of Newark to Leverage U.S. Bailout and Philanthropic Funding to Launch Small Business Grant Fund Round Four
- Arts and Cultural Affairs to launch third round of the Creative Catalyst Fund (CCF), the city-sponsored grant program for Newark-based artists, creative entrepreneurs and cultural nonprofit organizations
- The city will work with neighborhood partners to re-let and activate vacant storefronts and upper floors by engaging landlords, increasing flexible uses in zoning regulations, speeding up permitting, and identifying sources of capital for building improvements
Baraka said the economic stimulus package is the first in a set of stimulus initiatives that he and the city will launch over the next eight weeks. Future efforts include:
- Extended emergency rental assistance
- Emergency assistance extended to small businesses
- Five-year affordable housing goals
- A portal of affordable housing available
- “Back Together Again”, a series of community solidarity events
- Additional neighborhood redevelopment designations
- NewarkGo, a low-cost transport driver using dockless bikes and electric scooters
THE EFFECT OF THE PANDEMIC ON NEWARK
The financial impact of the pandemic has been dire in Newark, officials said.
According to a statement from the town hall:
“The pandemic has had a devastating impact on the hard-working residents and small business owners of Newark. Businesses owned by minorities, immigrants, local owners and women have been particularly affected. Between February and May 2020, 16,000 residents lost their jobs. , bringing Newark’s unemployment to 19%. In May 2021, Newark’s unemployment remained almost double the national average at 10.7%. “
City officials continued:
“Job losses in Newark have been concentrated in four sectors: hospitality, health care / social services, retail and ‘other services’, which account for 60% of all jobs lost. that otherwise would have gone to Newark businesses, even after factoring in government benefits. Sectors with a high concentration of small businesses will take the longest time to recover. “
Read more: Here’s how COVID impacted Newark small businesses
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