NEW JERSEY (CBSNewYork)New Jersey mayors are banding together to raise millions to help Black and Latino business owners.

Private donors like Shaquille O’Neil and major companies are providing funds, CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas reported Thursday.

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Adenah Boyoh has owned restaurants for more than 15 years.

“I had refinanced my house, emptied out my 401(k) plan, asked anyone in my family who had two dollars to give it to me just to open this one IHOP,” Bayoh said.

Funding was hard to come by because traditional banks turned her away. It happens now, even as she owns four IHOPs and three Cornbread restaurants.

“I’ve always been to community institutions that believe… the vision that I have,” said Bayoh.

That’s why the “New Jersey FAM Fund” was created – short for “Forty Acres and a Mule,” the original promise made to offer reparations to freed slaves.

In this context, it’s access to funding for Black and Latino business owners, started by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.

“This, obviously, was an idea that was birthed out of the pandemic and the issues that businesses were going through,” Baraka said.

Now the mayors of New Jersey’s urban cities, including East Orange, Trenton, Paterson, and Irvington are joining forces.

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Businesses can receive assistance in the form of grants, loans and equity stakes. So far, private donors to Fortune 500 companies have contributed $10 million.

The goal is $100 million.

Cline-Thomas asked the mayors what success would look like. They said it would be preserving these business corridors – already hit hard during the pandemic – which these cities can’t afford to lose.

“The last thing we need are empty storefronts,” said Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh.

“We’re talking about hiring in our communities,” said Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss. “We’re talking about being able to revitalize our communities.”

The funds are needed to level the playing field and close the gaps for those traditionally marginalized.

“It took them 200 times that effort to get that business open,” said Bayoh.

Mayor Baraka said he’s going to reaching out to Gov. Phil Murphy to ask for his support.

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Meantime, the first round of funding will be distributed within the next six weeks.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas