President Joe Biden on Wednesday promoted his administration’s newly launched Restaurant Revitalization Fund, saying the $28.6 billion program will offer restaurants a much-needed “seat at the table” as the country continues to reopen.
The president stressed the critical role that restaurant and other food establishments will play in boosting the economy, saying it will be paramount that employers can hire and retain employees in a safe way.
“Now, as we vaccinate Americans, customers are coming back. Our vaccination progress and our economic recovery is going hand-in-hand,” Biden said from the White House. “As that happens, we want to make sure our restaurants, bars, and other dining establishments can staff back up and they can come back as well.”
The industry has suffered greatly during the pandemic, with nearly half of all restaurant, bar, and other food and drinking place workers losing or leaving their jobs between Feb. and April 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The new restaurant fund is the Biden-Harris Administration’s latest move to prioritize helping these establishments, which they described as places “to gather, celebrate, and share ideas.”
“Whether it’s our economy or our sense of community, we’re relying on restaurants to play a big role in our recovery,” the president said Wednesday. “If we want our economy to recover in a way that deals everyone in, then our restaurants need a seat at the table, no pun intended.”
The program, which launched Monday, is funded as part of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, the American Rescue Plan, to aid America’s hard-hit eating establishments. Restaurants and other food establishments can apply for grants that are “equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss,” per the White House, with a cap of $10 million per business and $5 million per location.
Businesses who receive the grants can use it to pay for rent, utilities, payroll, supplies — everything they need to “stay open, and to reopen,” Biden said.
The president also touted that in the first two days of the program, 186,200 establishments applied for relief, including 46,400 businesses owned by women, 30,800 by individuals “socially and economically disadvantaged,” 4,200 veteran-owned businesses and 16,200 owned by a combination of those three.
“The law was written so that as we process these applications, the new one, we focus first on those who were left behind by the other relief programs, and to make sure the relief is distributed fairly,” Biden said. “We also set aside funds for the smallest restaurants, bars, food trucks, and many family owned restaurants that haven’t gotten any help to date, and they need it.
“That way, they don’t have to compete above their weight class for these grants,” he added.
Under the law, the Small Business Administration will prioritize funding applications from small businesses owned and controlled by women, veterans, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals for the first 21 days of the program.
While the applications are still being reviewed by officials, Biden said on Wednesday it looks like the government will be able to provide relief to about 100,000 restaurants and eligible businesses through the new program.
Earlier in the day, the president visited Taqueria Las Gemelas, a restaurant located in Northeast Washington, D.C., to meet with workers and highlight the success of the American Rescue Plan.
Taqueria Las Gemelas went from 55 employees to 7 during the pandemic, but thanks to funds obtained through the Paycheck Protection Program, the restaurant was able to rehire their employees and provide back pay to those who returned, according to the White House.
The restaurant received additional relief funding from the pilot program Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which they will use to offer their staff raises, complete unfinished projects, and to “operate with confidence again,” per the White House.
The restaurant is owned in part by Mexican immigrants, with the administration celebrating “the resiliency and ingenuity of the Mexican-American community” on Cinco de Mayo, which is observed on May 5.