NEWARK — When Keer Oliphant was told she had to shut down her hair salon Kleen Kutz on Bergen Street in Newark due to a statewide mandate last spring, she thought it was a wrap.
“I felt like the hair business was over,” she told PIX11 News. “Because remember at that time it was like, we’re never gonna be able to touch each other.“
The city eventually came to her rescue, assisting the salon — a staple in the community since 1997 – with a grant to see another day.
“Like I’m here, I’m gonna die here. I love Newark,” Oliphant said.
The city is now expanding its efforts to help small businesses like Oliphant’s thrive after COVID — launching what it says is an “ambitious” 2-year economic recovery plan that will focus on jobs, equitable development and the growth of small businesses.
A bulk of the funding for the program — which has a budget of $8.8 million for the first year alone — comes from the American Rescue plan and the the initiatives first on the list include:
- Offering free or low-cost broadband to all small businesses
- Reducing fees like business taxes And code compliance penalties
- Expanded emergency assistance for rent
- As well as an investment in the city’s startup and tech cluster.
The pandemic hit Newark particularly hard. More than 16,0009 residents lost their jobs and the recovery on that is still underway.
While shop owners struggled to see the light — the city reports not one small business permanently shut their doors. They say it’s a result of the Newark’s aggressive action plan to help combat COVID-19 restrictions.
Salaam Ice Cream Parlor was one of the businesses that secured a city grant early on.
“It helped us to take care of utilities, rent and supplies,” owner Cushanda Muhammad said.
The investment, the city hopes, gets Newark back on track thriving as it was before the pandemic.