ATLANTIC CITY — The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority called an emergency meeting Tuesday to help small businesses stay afloat and assist local organizations on the front lines of the new coronavirus pandemic.
The CRDA allocated $2 million in grant funding to be used exclusively for small-business recovery in Atlantic County during the afternoon meeting. The board also allotted more than $60,000 for food assistance and homeless outreach in Atlantic City.
Additionally, the CRDA entered into an agreement with the state Department of Health and Spectra Venue Management for the operation of a federally run field hospital at the Atlantic City Convention Center for non-COVID-19 patients.
Board Chairman Robert Mulcahy said the emergency actions taken Tuesday were an “absolute necessity for Atlantic City.”
“I think the actions that this board took today demonstrate our willingness and our ability to have compassion and understanding for the people in Atlantic City and Atlantic County, and our desire to be helpful in this crisis,” Mulcahy said.
The small-business grant funding will be allocated by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority as part of its statewide recovery response.
More than 1,000 small businesses in Atlantic County have applied for a $5,000 grant from the NJEDA since the process began Friday morning, said CRDA Executive Director Matt Doherty.
The Board of Directors also approved $40,000 and $23,500 for the Hispanic Alliance of Atlantic County and Jewish Family Service, respectively, to fund food assistance and homeless outreach.
The Hispanic Alliance will be setting up a food distribution center to help feed nearly 1,000 local families.
Jewish Family Service will continue operating its food pantry and homeless outreach programs with the additional funding.
Vice Chairman Rich Tolson said the board expedited the usual process in approving Tuesday’s agenda items to “get the help to the people who need it most as soon as possible.”
Conversion of the Convention Center into a 250-bed field hospital is underway. Tractor trailers with medical supplies and equipment began arriving Tuesday.
The site was selected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a regional medical center that will treat patients who require continued hospital care. The field hospital will not treat people who have tested positive for COVID-19, Doherty said.
The Convention Center has the capacity for up to 3,000 beds, said Doherty. The field hospital could be operational by April 14, state officials said.
The Atlantic City Convention Center is one of three regional locations in New Jersey that will serve as field hospital sites run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Army Corps, the state Health Department and the State Police. The others are at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus and the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center in Edison. A fourth site has not been named.