By Lauren Wanko
Gov. Chris Christie’s Jersey Shore tour continues. This morning he visited Rossi’s Rent-A-Rama in Ortley Beach to highlight the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s Stronger NJ Business Grant Program available to business owners impacted by the storm.
“This is a brand new program in disaster recovery. We argued for this with the president and convinced him that here in New Jersey, the backbone of the Jersey Shore are small businesses just like this one,” Christie said.
Two hundred sixty million dollars of New Jersey’s disaster recovery assistance has been allocated for the grant program. To be eligible, small businesses or non-profits must have sustained a minimum of $5,000, per location, in physical damages from Superstorm Sandy.
Rossi’s Rent-A-Rama Owner Diana Ruggiero received more than $9,000 so far. It’s something she desperately needed after flood waters inundated her business. She lost the majority of her inventory. The grant money will help her restock the store.
“It’s helping us get back on our feet, absolutely without a doubt, because we were devastated,” Ruggiero said.
There are nearly 100 businesses in Ortley Beach. So far 73 have reopened since the storm. Toms River Mayor Tom Kelaher calls those businesses the lifeblood of the community.
“It’s critical to the well-being of the town. People depend on it for their livelihood,” Kelaher said.
Grants are available up to $50,000. We asked Christie how long business owners would have to wait for the much needed money.
“I think, Lauren, that what you’ll see is that it’s slow in the beginning like most the these programs but the important message is for people is to get in the pipeline. Get in the pipeline now and then as things start to speed up, they’ll at least be in line, in queue to be able to get their money quickly and I would hope that a lot of this money would be able to be distributed before Labor Day,” Christie said.
Later in the afternoon, we followed the governor to Belmar. Eastern Lines Surf Shop owner Don Tarrant received $12,000 so far.
“As quickly as the money comes, it’s gone. We appreciate any help we can get,” Tarrant said.
There are 140 business in Belmar. All of the shops are now up and running since the storm. Mayor Matt Doherty says its absolutely vital that the businesses open in time for the summer season. That’s because many of the shops depend on the tourists. Doherty says without those tourists, many of the businesses would suffer tremendously.
Tarrant says that’s why the grant money is so important. They just reopened in May.
“Without the tourism, without this summer, we wouldn’t be here, honest and truly. I think tourism accounts for about 70 to 75 percent of our overall sales during the course of the year,” Tarrant said.
That’s why these business owners are hoping the grant money kicks off the start of a successful summer season.