The Small Business Administration announced last week that 169 operators will receive $83 million in unused Restaurant Revitalization Fund grants, nearly a year and a half after the program closed.
In July, the U.S. Government Accountability Office indicated in a report that $180 million was left over, but that estimate was inaccurate, said the National Restaurant Association. The grants are being released in the order that applications were received. Operators have been notified, and grants will be sent through this week. Recipients have until March to spend the money.
“This week, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) began distribution of returned funding in the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) program, following the program’s closure in June 2021,” the agency said in a statement. “In doing so, the SBA worked with the advice of the Department of Justice on a plan to distribute the remaining funds, approximately $83 million. The SBA has contacted the recipients of the awards. In addition to other SBA assistance programs, the RRF has helped more than 100,000 restaurants and other food and beverage business owners survive the pandemic. The SBA and the Biden-Harris Administration are committed to help struggling restaurants get back to business with currently available products and resources.”
Congress passed the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund in March 2021 as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The program received requests for more than $75 billion. On average, restaurants asked for grants of roughly $207,000. More than 100,000 applicants received help, however, another 177,000 were left without anything. In May, the Senate was unable to pass the Small Business COVID Relief Act of 2022, which would’ve provided $40 billion in replenishment.
Sean Kennedy, the Association’s executive vice president of public affairs, said the move represents the closure of a nearly three-year effort to gather financial aid for restaurants.
“We must continue to look forward because the enormous challenges of the industry will continue beyond today,” Kennedy said in a statement. “From the recruitment of employees to the constantly rising costs for food, running a restaurant right now is a daily struggle. There are steps the government can take to support restaurants in every community, and we will continue to press for solutions at the federal, state, and local level.”
The Association noted that more than 8 million workers were laid off or furloughed during the initial COVID shutdowns in spring 2020. Almost three years later, the industry still hasn’t recreated 565,000 jobs lost at the time, which is the biggest employment deficit caused by the pandemic among all industries. More than 90,000 restaurants have closed long-term or permanently due to COVID.