WASHINGTON—Next month, the Small Business Administration plans to start taking applications for the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund grants, reports Nation’s Restaurant News.
According to Patrick Kelley, associate administrator for the SBA’s Office of Capital Access, the SBA is expected to post instructions, relevant qualifications and other information for potential applicants over the next seven to 10 days. Guidance on the supporting documents required will also be available.
Applications of prioritized groups, including women, veterans and oppressed groups, will receive prioritization for the first wave of grants, before being opened to a wider rollout.
The whole process will take place over the next 30-45 days, and the government agency is “focused like a laser” on getting the applications up and running, Kelley said. “We are working as fast as we can and around the clock to get the restaurant relief program up off the ground. And so, the timeframe we’re trying to go for is in the next 30 days,” he added.
The process is taking so long because the SBA must build—from scratch—a technology platform that can handle the numerous applications expected. Once the system is in place, the grants will function like direct payments to the applicants.
“Getting clear information out as quickly as possible is essential,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, (D-N.H.). “If [businesses] don’t get the guidance soon for how they can apply, they may not be able to survive.”
Passed on March 11 along with the rest of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund is divided into government-funded grants. There is a $5 million per individual restaurant location maximum or $10 million per restaurant group. Eligible businesses include foodservice and drinking establishments that are not part of an affiliated restaurant group with more than 20 locations and are not publicly traded.
The grants are important to reviving the restaurant industry because “unlike convenience stores, which were deemed essential businesses and remained open throughout the pandemic…many restaurants were forced to close and when open, only on a limited scale,” said Lyle Beckwith, senior vice president, government relations, NACS.
Chains of 20 or more stores and those that are publicly traded are ineligible but beyond that the rules on which foodservice entities qualify are currently vague. As written, it is possible that a small convenience store with a significant food service operation which also suffered a business loss in 2020 may be eligible. Pending further clarifying guidance from the SBA, NACS believes it may be worthwhile for any such convenience operators who may be interested to inquire about their eligibility with the SBA.
NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.