Pressure mounts to replenish the SBA’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund after running out in 21 days
Demand hit $76 billion, more than double the available funds. Restaurant and food vendor associations are mobilizing to urge Congress to approve more funding.
More than 372,000 applications requesting over $76 billion far exceeded the capacity of the U.S. federal government’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund to meet the demand, Isabella Casillas Guzman, head of the Small Business Administration, said in a hearing at the House Small Business Committee on May 26.
More than half of those applications came from groups that Congress ordered the SBA to prioritize: small businesses owned by women, veterans, and socially and economically disadvantaged groups, which include Black, Latinx and other underrepresented communities when access to capital are considered.
The SBA’s $29-billion grant program stopped receiving applications on Monday, May 24. A week earlier, the SBA had already received more than 300,000 applications representing $69 billion, and it had approved nearly 38,000 of those requests, for more than $6 billion.
Since last week, there have been growing calls from restaurant associations and small business owners on social media to pressure the White House and Congress to provide more funding.
One of those associations is the Independent Restaurant Coalition, which has been advocating for a $120-billion grant program for struggling independent restaurants and bars, who are indeed eligible to receive funds from the current set up of the RRF:
Since the beginning of our fight, we’ve advocated for a $120B grant program for struggling independent restaurants and bars. Congress should refill the #RestaurantRevitalizationFund now to match our industry’s need and help us rebuild.
— Independent Restaurant Coalition (@IndpRestaurants) May 26, 2021
On May 26, the National Restaurant Association launched a social media campaign on Twitter to “urge policymakers in Washington – from the White House to Capitol Hill – to pursue creative ways to replenish the RRF”:
We urge policymakers in Washington – from the White House to Capitol Hill – to pursue creative ways to replenish the RRF and ensure that it maximizes relief for small independent and franchise restaurant operators. Join us by texting 'MORERELIEF' to 52886. pic.twitter.com/turU5rzY6n
— National Restaurant Association (@WeRRestaurants) May 25, 2021
Under the hashtag #RestaurantRevitalizationFund, some Twitter users have been sharing online petitions to collect signatures in support of additional funding for the RRF. One of them has already collected more than 16,000 signatures.
The federal grant program has been attractive particularly to the small mom-and-pop shops in the food business. In New York City, organizations such as the Street Vendor Project, with around 2,000 active members, have been encouraging street food cart owners to apply, since the RRF prioritizes these types of businesses that find it hard to operate with traditional bank debt.
Our team is hustling to get applications in before the program closes on Monday, May 24th, as this is one of the few relief programs open to vendors.
Thank you to @BOCNetwork for your support in helping SVP members apply - we're grateful for your partnership! pic.twitter.com/z2NvqXAYJI
— StreetVendorProject (@VendorPower) May 22, 2021
As AL DIA reported previously, the RRF was designed to target the smallest restaurant, bars and other eatery locations across the country.
About $5 billion were set aside for applicants with receipts up to $500,000 in annual revenue, $4 billion for anyone with receipts between $500,000 and $1.5 million a year, and $500 million for the ones with receipts up to $50,000. In total, it made up $9.5 billion.
A week before the end of the application window, the SBA reported an overwhelmingly high number of these applicants, requesting a total of $15 billion. The businesses with annual revenue between $500,000 and $1.5 million amounted to 34,000 applications, while the ones with up to $500,000 in receipts had close to 74,000 applications.
The only group that still had funding available were the smallest of the small businesses, which had requested funds for about $290 million on May 18th. The SBA wasn’t immediately available to comment on updated figures of the program.
In the hearing of the House Small Business Committee, representative Angie Craig (D-MN) called on her colleagues to press House leaders to increase resources for the RRF. The SBA Administrator welcomed her remarks and said she would collaborate on finding solutions.