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Like all large gatherings, the Montclair Jazz Festival will not take place this year, cutting off a large source of funds for the non-profit Jazz House Kids.

By Andrew Garda & Gwen Orel
garda@montclairlocal.news
orel@montclairlocal.news

Like many for-profits, nonprofit businesses have been hurting due to the COVID-19 shutdown. Also like their for-profit brethren, the nonprofit businesses in Montclair are able to avail themselves of the Payroll Protection Plan, or PPP, and the Emergency Injury Disaster Loan, or EIDL.

Unfortunately, their ability to access those funds mirrors the for-profit businesses as well, in that they have not been able to.

Last week, the federal funds ran dry, though the Congress recently passed a $480 billion package to help shore up both the PPP and EIDL.

Both Jazz House Kids and Montclair Film are hoping that some of that money comes their way.

Melissa Walker, founder of Jazz House Kids, made sure the organization started the process immediately, applying for both the EIDL and PPP programs. The company provides a wide range of things to the community, from classes, residencies, and workshops for kids of all ages to presenting concerts, including the Montclair Jazz Festival.

“The festival sponsorships and things all have come to a screeching halt,” Walker said.

As a nonprofit organization, Jazz House Kids is in a slightly different space than for-profit businesses like Gelati by Mike or Watchung Booksellers, but its situation is no less critical, as important fund-raising opportunities may not happen anytime soon.

“April should be a month [that is] financially very strong for us,” Walker said. “We would be seeing summer workshop revenue. We would have had an incredible gala in a month.”

None of that money will come in now, so it’s vital the organization gets money from the government to survive.

“[We] heard back that the application had been reviewed,” she said. “We have not gotten confirmation [of approval] yet.”

Walker said the overall application process wasn’t onerous, but the process was less than smooth.


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“On the one hand, what was asked was not overly challenging to gather,” she explained. “But [you’d] go on a system and it didn’t go up. [Then you’d] wait some more and then it would crash. The mechanics of it are really challenging. It took us hours upon hours on Sunday to get it uploaded. We could tell there was a lot of volume.”

She said she could only imagine it’s worse now. 

Tom Hall, the artistic director of Montclair Film, is experiencing a little of that, and he says he’s not alone.

“I’ve got friends at other film nonprofits around the country. We’ve been sort of chatting about it,” Hall said. “And I don’t think anybody had the full idea of what was required. So we’ve all been spending the weekend working on it. I think we’re ready.”

The Montclair Film Festival would have started this week, on April 30.

Hall said some of the issues had to do with changes in the application process as well.

“So they are floating an application and then they revised it, and it had different information that was required from every organization,” he said. “So what happened on Friday … they changed the guidance. We essentially had some of it that was still relevant, but we needed extra stuff and more stuff. So when we got that all together, we’re ready to go to the bank [and for them] to tell us we’re good to go.”

As with any business, the money, when it finally comes, will make as big a difference for the nonprofits as for the for-profits.

“It’s a lifesaver. It’s huge,” Walker said.  “For Jazz House, we immediately kept our whole staff, [which is] one of the things we’re really committed to. We reduced everything, trimmed up and leaned up asap. We’re making sacrifices. We’ll get through this as a team, and everybody has sacrificed as we have. [But we] don’t know how long this will go.”

Covid Arts
The Montclair Film Festival would have been just kicking off, but now a major source of funding for Montclair Film is gone.

Hall said, “It’s important to put people first. This [money] will be a two-month payroll for us, which can be a tremendous help in riding out the crisis.”

Until they see the money, nonprofit organizations will continue to rely on donors for help.

For Jazz House Kids, that help has come from Herb Alpert, musician and wife of singer Lani Hall (no relation to Tom Hall). Alpert, who co-founded A&M Records, has a foundation that is offering to match donations dollar for dollar up to $100,000.

“That they are matching dollar for dollar could not have come at a better time,” Walker said.

Of course, as the pandemic stretches on and private individuals begin to tighten their belts, those donations may become scarce.

As of Friday, April 24, Hall said that Montclair Film did not get funded in round one, perhaps because the program ran out of money. But, he said, they have been told that they are in the queue for the second round of funding coming out of Congress, and he hopes to be funded then. The same is true for Jazz House Kids.

So the sooner the federal programs kick in, the better for the two nonprofits.

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