FILE - NJ New Jersey Senate chamber 1-23-2020

The New Jersey Senate conducts business Jan. 13, 2020, at the Statehouse in Trenton.

(The Center Square) – Republican members of the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee want legislators to include relief for small businesses and nonprofits impacted by COVID-19 in any forthcoming relief measure.

In a letter to Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, and Budget Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo, D-Woodridge, the Republican committee members want the aid in any legislation to restore a state tax incentive program.

They specifically pointed to S-3210, which would appropriate $300 million to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) to help small businesses and nonprofits. Several organizations, including the New Jersey Business & Industry Association and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, support the legislation.

“Please know that we generally support reforming and reestablishing New Jersey’s tax credit program as a means of attracting and retaining employers,” the lawmakers wrote. “We also believe, however, that the State must act to meet the needs of the smaller Main Streets businesses and nonprofits that are the backbone of our New Jersey economy.”

State Sens. Steven Oroho, R-Frankling; Sam Thompson, R-Old Bridge; Declan O’Scanlon, R-Little Silver; and Michael Testa, R-Vineland, signed the letter. The lawmakers chided Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, for not making available federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to help small businesses and nonprofits.

“Rather than using federal relief funds for their intended purpose of helping small businesses and nonprofits to survive the coronavirus crisis, the governor has diverted $600 million of CARES Act money to pay the salaries and health benefits of ordinary State employees,” the Republican lawmakers wrote. “These funds are being washed into the General Fund despite a State budget surplus that will likely exceed $2.5 billion due to tax revenues exceeding expectations.”

A new survey from the New Jersey Business and Industry Association (NJBIA) found businesses are less than optimistic about the state’s economy heading into 2021. The Republican lawmakers noted that 30% of New Jersey small businesses have closed permanently since the start of COVID-19.

In an online appearance before the NJBIA’s Public Policy Forum, Sweeney said he hopes presumptive President-elect Joe Biden and the incoming Congress will pass a stimulus package that helps the Garden State.

“Our focus now is on the recovery and the next budget, and I am optimistic that Biden will be able to work with the Senate and that we can get back to work by next summer,” he said, according to a news release. “We are going to need to get stimulus relief from the federal government because a lot of small businesses stayed alive only because of the Payroll Protection Plan loans, and we need another round desperately.”