The race to $28.6 billion in direct restaurant aid is coming to a close. The SBA announced Tuesday the Restaurant Revitalization Fund will stop accepting applications after 8 p.m. on May 24.
To date, the fund has already received far more requests than it can satisfy financially. More than 303,000 applications flooded in representing more than $69 billion in requested funds. Nearly 38,000 applicants were already approved for more than $6 billion, the SBA said. So while there’s plenty of money to be doled out, there’s zero question some operators will be left out.
Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman said Tuesday the program remains “committed to creating easy to navigate programs and removing barriers that have kept many of our nation’s smallest businesses from accessing these crucial economic lifelines.”
“The SBA will continue to be as entrepreneurial as the small businesses we serve, and we will continue to work as fast as possible to deliver the relief our businesses need so urgently,” Guzman said.
Of the overall submitted applications, 57 percent came from women, veterans, and socially and economically disadvantaged business owners. During the first two weeks, the SBA received applications from:
- More than 122,000 women business owners
- More than 14,000 veteran business owners
- More than 71,000 economically and socially disadvantaged individuals
The RRF set aside an initial $5 billion for applicants with gross receipts not more than $500,000. To further ensure an equitable distribution of funds, Guzman created two additional funding allocations to ensure the smallest of the small restaurants and other eating establishments have equitable access.
One being $500 million for applicants with 2019 gross receipts not more than $50,000. The other $4 billion for applicants with 2019 gross receipts between $500,000 and $1,500,000. In the first two weeks of the RRF program, and after 600 targeted community outreach events in multiple languages, SBA said it received from priority groups:
- 12,898 applications from businesses with not more than $50,000 in pre-pandemic revenue requesting $290 million in funds
- 73,671 applications from businesses with not more than $500,000 in annual pre-pandemic revenue requesting $6.1 billion in funds
- 34,010 applications from businesses with $500,000–$1,500,000 in annual pre-pandemic revenue requesting $8.4 billion in funds
This directive is key. The SBA said it still has potential set-aside funding available for eligible establishments with 2019 annual revenue of not more than $50,000. And those locations can access the application portal until the May 24 deadline.
In other terms, even though the queue is longer than the funding, there’s still room for eligible venues to jump to the front. While all qualified restaurants may submit applications, the SBA explained, more than $220 million of a $500 million set-aside remains in the RRF. Eligible establishments that meet this revenue standard are encouraged to apply through SBA-recognized point-of-sale vendors or directly via the SBA online application portal.
“Designed to ensure the smallest of small eating establishments get the relief needed, set-asides continue a commitment to an equitable distribution of funds to hard-hit communities,” the SBA sai.d
“The numbers speak to the commitment SBA made to educating owners and operators through their work with the Association, our state partners, and other industry support organizations,” Tom Bené, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, said in a statement. “The funds that have already been distributed will help accelerate the recovery of thousands of restaurants and bring much-needed capital to communities across the country.”
In mid-May, the Association began its campaign to replenish the fund after it goes dry. Sean Kennedy, EVP of Public Affairs at the Association said, due to early results, “we now have a clear picture of how much need there is for this funding.”
“Right now, SBA has more than $36 billion in applications from small, struggling independent businesses that will not receive funding, so we continue to urge policymakers in Washington—from the White House to Capitol Hill—to replenish the RRF to maximize relief for small independent and franchise restaurant operators. Americans can’t wait to get back into their favorite restaurant with their family and friends, and the federal government can play a key role in making that a reality,” Kennedy said at the time.
In response, the Association unveiled a grassroots petition to policy leaders from the White House urging congress to add funds to the RRF. You can view that here.
“This amount won’t even come close to covering the over $280 billion in sales that restaurants and bars have lost during the pandemic,” said Erika Polmar, executive director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, in a statement. “The vast majority of independent restaurants and bars are still struggling to make ends meet through no fault of their own and Congress must refill the Restaurant Revitalization Fund to ensure everyone who needs relief receives it. Restaurants were a thriving part of our economy for many years and, with the right tools, can help families and communities recover quickly.”