Groups spread word about restaurant fund

The restaurant industry was hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic, with one dire forecast predicting close to half of all food and restaurant businesses in Queens would shutter by year’s end.
To help revitalize the industry, the Biden Administration created the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which provides grants for restaurants and bars equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss, with a cap of $10 million per business and $5 million per location.
Members of Queens Together and the Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC) gathered outside The Queensboro restaurant in Jackson Heights last Friday to urge business owners to file applications to get a share of the $28 billion fund.
They handed out flyers in six different languages promoting the fund. Over the next two weeks, they plan to do the same in Rosedale, Jamaica, Laurelton, Flushing, Elmhurst, Astoria, Corona and Long Island City.
“We need restaurants to file the application as soon as possible because it’s a federal program and people across the country will be applying,” said Shurn Anderson from the office of Borough President Donovan Richards.
The application for the grant, which doesn’t have to be repaid if it is used by 2023, can be accessed online at the Small Business Administration website or by contacting QEDC, which will offer filing assistance to business owners.
Through May 24, the SBA will only approve applications from businesses that are majority-owned by women, veterans, or those who are socially and economically disadvantaged.
Ahead of a full reopening of restaurants on May 19, Jonathan Forgash from Queens Together, a grassroots group created at the start of the pandemic to advocate for the restaurants, painted a picture of an industry in deep distress.
As of last December, he said 92 percent of small businesses couldn’t afford the rent.
QEDC executive director Seth Bornstein said everyone in the restaurant industry has been hurt by the pandemic. He said it wasn’t just the restaurants that were hurt, but their suppliers as well.

More needs to be done for restaurants

If you need any further proof of the toll the pandemic has taken on the restaurant industry, not just in New York City but across the nation, you need look no further than the response to the Biden administration’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), which launched on May 3.
The federal government funneled $28.6 billion into the fund to help struggling businesses in the restaurant industry recover from pandemic-related losses. Grants are capped at $10 million per business and $5 million per location.
During the first week, the Small Business Administration (SBA) approved 16,000 applicants. Over $2 billion in the first wave of funding started showing up in business bank account earlier this week. That’s an amazingly fast response.
All of those businesses are either owned by women, veterans and individuals who are socially and economically disadvantaged. That’s because when the fund was created, a 21-day priority period was created to process applications from those business owners.
After the 21-day period, any restaurant owner is eligible for a grant.
That was a noble aim, as those types of businesses are usually already surviving on slim profit margins, and are affected most by severe economic downturns.
The problem is there may not by any money left in the fund after the three weeks is up. Here’s an excerpt from an SBA press release this week announcing the approval of the 16,000 applications:

“Following the 21-day priority period, established by law in the American Rescue Plan Act, all eligible applications will be funded in the order in which they have been received,” it read. “While the SBA will continue accepting applications from any eligible establishment until funds are exhausted, the number of applications received so far could exhaust the funds authorized to fund the RRF.”

That means if you haven’t already applied for a grant, you are probably out of luck. And even if you have already applied for a grant, if you didn’t do it right away, the money could be gone by the time your number is called, especially if you don’t fall into one of the priority groups.
The RRF was a great first step, but it’s clear now it can only be a first step. While $28.6 billion is a lot of money, more is going to have to be done to help the restaurant industry recover from a year of disruptions and capacity limits.

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