The Burlington County Commissioners are creating a new grant program to assist veteran-owned or military personnel-owned businesses.
The Commissioners announced the new program last Wednesday and voted to issue a Request for Proposals seeking organizations or entities interested in managing the new grant program, which will fall under the Burlington County Department of Human Services. The RFP I posted online at https://www.co.burlington.nj.us/1171/Bids-RFQ-RFP .
“Burlington County is proud to be the chosen home to more than 30,000 veterans and thousands more active-duty and reserve service members. We have made it our mission to both honor and assist these heroes and their families in as many ways as possible,” said Burlington County Commissioner Director Felicia Hopson. “This grant program is a reflection of that commitment, and it will provide much-deserved assistance to Burlington County businesses that are still recovering from the impacts of the pandemic and the ensuing economic emergency.”
Grant criteria is still being developed, but the Commissioners said they intend for the program to award up to $10,000 to any veteran-owned business or military personnel-owned business operating in Burlington County that suffered a COVID-19 related loss or hardship.
It is anticipated the County will begin accepting applications in the fall and make awards on a rolling basis until funds are exhausted.
A total of $500,000 in federal funds received by the County from the American Rescue Plan Act is being used to finance the program.
“Helping Burlington County businesses, especially those that are owned and operated by service members and veterans who live here, has been one of our board’s top priorities and we continue to take steps to ensure Burlington County remains one of the most veteran-friendly and business-friendly communities in America,” said Burlington County Commissioner Deputy Director Tom Pullion. “Our nation’s veterans put their lives on the line to serve us and we have a responsibility to provide whatever assistance we can muster to help them in their time of need.”
The new grant program is the latest action taken by the County to assist businesses impacted during the health emergency.
Near the start of the pandemic in 2020, the Board created the Health Emergency Loan Program, also known as HELP. The program offered businesses impacted by the pandemic up to $50,000 in zero-interest loans to assist them to continue operating through the pandemic.
The program provided a lifeline for many Burlington County businesses that failed to qualify for or exhausted federal or state assistance.
The County also launched a Business Portal on the County website to provide a single location for both new and longtime established businesses to go to for information and links on business assistance, regulations, financing, workforce development, promotions and other resources.
The Business Portal also includes an online map and directory of 25 veteran-owned businesses operating in the Burlington County so residents could more easily locate and support these enterprises. Veteran-owned businesses that want to be listed should contact the Commissioners’ Public Information Office at email@example.com.
In addition, Burlington County has one of the most active and successful Military and Veterans Services office in the state. The office works closely with local veterans organizations and officials at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst to keep veterans and service members informed about initiatives and events that might benefit them. It also advocates for county veterans and assists them with casework related to their benefits.
Last year, the office helped county veterans obtain more than $15 million in compensation and benefits.
Burlington County was recognized in 2021 when it became one of the first counties in New Jersey to receive a New Jersey Governor’s We Value Our Veterans Community Award.
“Our services for veterans are ways our Board thanks our veterans and lets them know how welcome they are in our county. The same applies to our active-duty and reserve service members and their families,” said Pullion. “We’re proud to be the home of so many outstanding members of our military services and we continue to look for new ways to assist and expand our services for these heroes.”
New Jersey Senator Troy Singleton said the new grant program was a phenomenal way to help support veterans and service members.
“Our veterans and service members stepped forward to protect and defend our nation with honor and we all have a responsibility to support them with resources and opportunities,” said Senator Singleton. “I’m proud that my home county is taking this action to provide small business grants to businesses owned and operated by our nation’s heroes. The funding will help these businesses recover and grow and at the same time strengthen our local economy and communities.”