TENAFLY, N.J. (CBSNewYork)Gov. Phil Murphy signed a new law Wednesday that he called a game changer for small businesses impacted by the pandemic.

Owners told CBS2’s Dave Carlin the relief couldn’t have come at a better time.

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Tina Bologna is co-owner of Just Jersey in Morristown, a store stuffed with items from more than 200 New Jersey-based vendors.

After one grant got her small business through the start of the pandemic, another could help pad the paychecks for new hires.

“We’ll need to be more competitive in what we offer and compensate,” Bologna said.

In Tenafly, Gov. Murphy put pen to paper to help more small businesses survive and thrive.

“Small businesses need this desperately. This is now the law of the land,” Murphy said.

The state’s Economic Development Authority will administer the grants totaling $135 million — $55 million to micro-businesses, $15 million to bars and restaurants, $10 million to child care businesses, $10 million to arts and culture organizations, and $45 million to other small businesses.

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“I’m really grateful that this funding is available again and it helps us. It’ll help our vendors. It’s really critical to keeping the economy going,” Bologna said.

Murphy said a component to the program is allowing the owners who get the money to use it as they see fit, Carlin reported.

“There’s latitude with how they use that money. Air filters, hot water heaters. So if a small business chooses to throw a couple of bucks more an hour to attract more employment, that is their purview. That is their right to do that,” Murphy said.

The grant money was described as a godsend by Just Jersey’s other owner, Paul Miller.

“It lets a business owner take the money and address the concerns that might be unique to their business and their business alone,” Miller said. “I would say to anyone out there who would question whether or not they qualify or if they need it, make the jump, take the chance, apply for the money because you don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring.”

Murphy said since the pandemic started New Jersey has allocated more than $650 million in state and federal aid to tens of thousands of businesses.

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The governor also said he does not plan to cut the $300 unemployment benefit because he said people are still hurting and need it.

Dave Carlin