COLUMBUS, Ohio — Restaurants can begin the application process on Friday for relief from a $28.6 billion fund for the industry that was approved in the American Rescue Plan, Small Business Administration (SBA) officials said.
The stimulus fund will support the food and beverage industry with grants of up to $5 million, or up to $10 million for busineses with multiple locations. Restaurants will be able to apply until the funds are exhausted, officials said. The grants must be spent by March, 2023.
Isabella Casillas Guzman, administrator of the SBA, said the agency is “committed to equity” as it makes the funds available, pledging that smaller and underserved businesses won’t be left out, even though it will be what she described as a “first come, first served” process.
The National Restaurant Association fears the relief from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) will quickly be exhausted from a rush of applications, estimating that the industry has lost $270 billion from the pandemic, according to Sean Kennedy, the association’s executive vice president for public affairs. The application numbers on day one are expected to be “through the roof,” he said. “It’s going to go quickly.”
Kennedy said the association is working with members of Congress in hopes to create additional funding for restaurants.
The SBA will begin accepting applications on Monday, May 3 at 12 p.m. from restaurants as well as food trucks, caterers, coffee shops, and bars, among other businesses. Applicants are encouraged to complete applications in advance upon the beginning of the registration window Friday morning.
The first three weeks of the program will be a priority period for businesses that are majority-owned by women, socially or economically disadvantaged people and veterans.
“Today, I want you to know that help customized for you is here,” Guzman said Wednesday during a virtual presentation. “We know restaurants were among the businesses that were first to close and will likely be among the last to fully reopen. You represent the core of our neighborhoods and propel economic activity along our main streets across the nation.”
She said many of the country’s smallest businesses as well as minority-owned businesses in the industry have been unable to access relief thus far. Officials said $9.5 billion of this round of funds has been set aside for smaller businesses that had less than $1.5 million in 2019 gross receipts. Businesses with more than 20 locations are ineligible to apply for RRF grants.
Some bakeries, brewpubs, tasting rooms, breweries, wineries and distilleries will be eligible for the grants, but they must demonstrate that in 2019 at least 33% of their sales were on premises.
The grants can be used for payroll, maintenance, supplies, operating expenses, rent and capital expenses incurred in response to the COVID-19 pandemic — for example, installing outdoor seating. Proceeds can be applied to expenses dating back to Feb. 15, 2020, according to SBA Associate Administrator of Capital Access Patrick Kelley.
For most businesses, the grant amounts will be based on the difference in gross receipts between 2019 and 2020, minus any PPP loans received, Kelley said.
Anticipating a high volume of applications, he encouraged businesses to be ready to apply “day one, hour one, minute one.”