By Stacy Cowley
After being devastated by the pandemic, restaurants, bars, caterers and other food businesses can now apply for a new $28.6 billion federal grant fund that will begin taking applications at noon today.
Eager applicants are ready to pounce. The Independent Restaurant Coalition, a group that lobbied for the relief fund, is encouraging business owners to apply the moment the application system opens.
“We know these funds are in high demand and will likely be distributed quickly,” said Erika Polmar, the coalition’s executive director.
The Restaurant Revitalization Fund, managed by the Small Business Administration, offers grants of up to $10 million. The amount each business can receive represents the difference between its 2019 and 2020 gross receipts, minus certain other federal assistance such as loans from the Paycheck Protection Program.
Publicly traded companies and businesses with more than 20 locations are ineligible for the fund.
All qualifying businesses will be able to apply beginning Monday, but for the first 21 days, the Small Business Administration will approve claims exclusively from businesses that are majority-owned by people who fall into one of the priority groups designated by Congress when it created the fund: women, veterans, and individuals who qualify as both socially and economically disadvantaged.
The agency said that latter group includes those who meet certain income and asset limits and are Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian-Pacific American or South Asian American.
Applicants from those groups will be asked to certify their own eligibility for the exclusivity period. That three-week priority period alone is likely to exhaust the fund.
The money allocated by Congress “is probably not going to be enough funds, in all likelihood, for the demand that’s out there,” Patrick Kelley, who runs the S.B.A.’s Capital Access office, said on a webinar last week. He said he hoped Congress would provide more money as needed.
Applicants can register on the agency’s website or directly through some sales technology vendors, including Toast and Square. The S.B.A. said its goal was to respond to applications within 14 days.
This is the second grant program the agency has launched recently. Last week, it began taking applications for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, a $16 billion relief fund for theaters, music clubs and other live event businesses. Nearly 9,500 businesses applied for that relief on the program’s first day but the agency has not yet issued any grant decisions.
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