Apr. 19—The Small Business Administration announced this weekend the details of how it hopes to use $28.6 billion in stimulus money to help those restaurants hardest hit by closures caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman announced the application requirements and eligibility for what initially will be used as a pilot program as the government agency tries to work out any issues before the full program is launched in the next couple of weeks.
"Today, we are starting the process to help restaurants and bars across the country devastated by the pandemic, and this is our message: Help is here," Guzman said in a news release. "With the launch of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, we're prioritizing funding to the hardest-hit small businesses — irreplaceable gathering places in our neighborhoods and communities that need a lifeline now to get back on their feet."
The money comes from the American Rescue Plan recently signed into law by President Joe Biden. The Restaurant Revitalization Fund will provide money to restaurants even if those businesses received grants through the Payroll Protection Program.
Before the restaurant program starts, the SBA will conduct a seven-day pilot period to address technical issues ahead of the public launch. The date for that launch will be announced at a later time, according to the news release.
Participants for the pilot period will be selected randomly from those restaurant owners who already qualified for PPP funding. They won't receive the new money until after the application portal opens to the public.
During the first 21 days of the program, the SBA will put a priority on reviewing applications from restaurants owned by women, veterans and those who are socially and economically disadvantaged.
"We're also focused on ensuring that the (Restaurant Revitalization Fund) program's application process is streamlined and free of burdensome, bureaucratic hurdles — while still maintaining robust oversight," Guzman said.
Erika Polmar, the executive director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, said the new program is good news for one of the hardest hit sectors of the economy.
"These guidelines were crafted by the SBA after conversations with independent restaurant and bar operators across the country," Polmar said. "We are grateful to the SBA for their hard work to make this process as accessible as possible in a short period of time."
Ron Busby Sr., the president and CEO of U.S. Black Chambers Inc., said he believes the effort will bring needed relief to underserved businesses.
"In addition to historically having less operating liquidity and revenue than almost any other small business demographic, Black-owned restaurants received significantly less stimulus funding during the COVID-19 pandemic, heightening challenges and leading to disproportionate closures," Busby said.