Thanks to inflation, supply chain issues, the labor shortage and other factors, small business optimism is at its lowest level in several years, according to a National Federation of Independent Business survey.

Garden State business leaders continue to clamor for assistance, but so far those cries for help have fallen on deaf ears in Trenton.

According to Tom Bracken, the president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, the small business community is saddled with unprecedented challenges and pressures, and something has to be done to help them because they are the job creators and they generate the money to pay for government programs.


What can be done?

Bracken said one step that can be taken is to create “a $2 billion grant pool for businesses that are struggling in New Jersey, not based on the ethnicity, the ownership or the location of the business, but a grant fund for the general business community.”

He said another major proposal to help the small business community that was yanked by the governor’s office right before the state budget was finalized a month ago called for federal American Rescue dollars to be used to replenish a good portion of the Unemployment Insurance Fund that was drained when the pandemic first began.

Bracken said these are two ideas that he believes state lawmakers can still move forward on.

"In this budget, I believe there’s a surplus of $5 to $6 billion sitting there for quote, 'a rainy day'. The problem is we’re in a rainy day right now. We need help now.”

Chrissy Buteas, chief government affairs officer for the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, agreed the state can and should use American Rescue money to replenish the Unemployment Insurance Fund.

“A universal fix across the board to replenish this necessary fund is certainly something that we’re pursuing,” Buteas said.


No more regulations

Buteas said at the same time, “we are encouraging our policymakers to please put a pause on any additional mandates that would increase the cost of businesses.”

She pointed out “we continuously hear about permitting fees being increased, another rule or regulation that may not be necessary, and all of these types of regulations add up over time.”

Bracken stressed help for many businesses can’t wait.

“This is a right now issue, next year is too late, we need stuff right now.”

Bracken acknowledged that while the business community received $850 million in pandemic grant assistance, that was distributed well over a year ago and there hasn't been any support since.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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