Bill establishing EDA loans for small businesses passes assembly

* Measure would offer loans to improve energy efficiency

A bill aimed at helping small businesses go green passed the Assembly in Trenton on Monday.

The legislation passed by a 60-14-1 vote. The measure would allow companies to qualify for New Jersey Economic Development Authority loans to cover the costs of improving a company's energy efficiency.

The EDA, in partnership with the Department of Community Affairs and Board of Utilities, would have the power to establish and administer low-interest loans to small businesses. These loans would cover the costs of doing an energy audit conducted by a licensed contractor. The bill also covers expenses related to improvement in energy efficiency that the audit considered necessary, such as the installation of equipment.

According to a Jan. 23 fiscal estimate, the legislation does not establish a funding source for the loan program or its overall size. That is up to the discretion of the EDA.

Assemblyman Tim Eustace, D-Maywood, a chiropractor at Family Chiropractic Center in Maywood, was a co-sponsor of the bill.

"Smaller businesses don't get paid attention to," he said in a phone interview Monday. He added that because energy costs make up a large part of a company's expenses, "this is a way to help [small-business owners] jump-start."

According to Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, a primary sponsor of the bill, the measure would help reduce operating costs for small-business owners.

"Energy efficiencies have been shown to improve operating costs," he said in a phone interview Monday.

Other local sponsors of the legislation include Shavonda Sumter, D-Paterson; Marlene Caride, D-Ridgefield; Gary Schaer, D-Passaic; and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, D-Secaucus.

Eustace said he expects the measure to be considered in the full Senate before the end of the current session.

The bill advanced to the Assembly last month.


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