Businesses need to act quickly to secure funding
By Terry Troy
Since the successful launch of its Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) last Monday, the U.S. Small Business Administration reported that it received more than 186,000 applications in just the first two days from restaurant and other food and beverage business in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. Territories. SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman announced the initial results last week.
The $28.6 billion program, signed into law by President Joe Biden as part of the American Rescue Plan, provides economic aid to restaurants and other establishments struggling to make ends meet as a result of the pandemic. However, the application window will only remain open until RRF funds have been fully exhausted, which may not be too long.
“Our nation’s restaurants have been among the first and worst hit by this pandemic, which is why we’ve been working as fast as possible to meet businesses where they are and get this much-needed relief into their hands,” said Guzman. “As directed by Congress, we’re prioritizing historically underserved communities and smaller businesses to ensure this relief is going to those who need it the most. At the SBA, we know that our nation’s restaurants help propel our economy and sustain our neighborhoods and communities, and we will continue to work hard to ensure they get the resources they need to recover, rebuild and become resilient.”
While the RRF is open to all qualified businesses, more than half of the recent applications (97,600) came from historically underserved communities, populations and smaller businesses. Restaurants, bars and other eligible businesses owned and controlled by women made up 46,400 applications, while veterans represented 4,200 businesses. Socially and economically disadvantaged individuals represented 30,800 businesses, while applications representing some combination of those three categories represented 16,200 applications. Over 61,700 applications came from businesses with under $500,000 in annual pre-pandemic revenue, representing some of the smallest restaurants and bars in America.
In the weeks leading up to the opening of the program, the SBA engaged with hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs — in hundreds of webinars and events held in multiple languages – to make sure they were ready to apply. Further, to support demand for this funding opportunity, the SBA expanded the RRF ecosystem to include point-of-sale vendors, providing more ways for eligible restaurants to take advantage of the program.
As outlined by Congress, restaurants and bars are eligible for economic aid equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss, with a cap of $10 million per business and $5 million per location. The funds are available for certain eligible uses, like payroll and rent.
While all qualified businesses currently are allowed to apply, under the law, the SBA will continue to prioritize RRF applications from small businesses owned and controlled by women, veterans, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals for the first 21 days of the program. Following the 21-day period, all eligible applications will be funded on a first-come, first-served basis.
To further ensure the equitable distribution of relief, $9.5 billion in set-asides have been established for the smallest restaurants and bars – including millions of dollars for restaurants, bars, and food trucks with under $50,000 in revenue.
Approved applicants should expect an average of 14 days for processing, review, approval and funds distribution. Those interested in applying to the program should visit sba.gov/restaurants for sample application, program guide, and more.