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September 22, 2020; Daily Record (Morristown, NJ)

For those who need a spiritual lift today, there is the story from Morristown, New Jersey, about a donor who gave $250,000 anonymously to help local small businesses survive the pandemic.

The money was donated to the Morristown Partnership to launch its Commercial Rent Relief Grant Program, where it will be redistributed to local groups in increments of up to $20,000. The Partnership intends to take applications over two weeks starting today and the final grantees will be chosen by lottery.

The grants will cover rent for three months and are contingent on the landlord’s willingness to reduce that rent by 20 percent over the months the fund covers.

“The turmoil of 2020 and its impact on our small-business community is a challenge no one, including the partnership, could have anticipated,” said Jennifer Wehring, executive director of the Partnership. “We are hopeful that this grant program will provide much-needed relief to our downtown small businesses, as well as benefit the property owners, and bring all closer to a full recovery.”

As is true right across the country, small businesses are increasingly challenged to stay open as the pandemic’s effects linger.

Morristown Diner owner Peter Rotsides has sacrificed his time off to keep his 25-year-old business open. His diner was closed from mid-March until late April, and he decided to reopen to give his employees work and bring in personal income.

“We’re also running with 50 percent employees. Me and my partner, we’ve had to work more hours to cover for things,” Rotsides said. “We haven’t taken a day off since March, and we have to do it so we don’t go under.”

The anonymous donation has attracted other money to the effort to relieve local businesses—and, of course, there is always room for more.—Ruth McCambridge