Thousands of restaurants and bars in every state and Washington DC have already applied for aid through the newly launched Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a $28.6bn plan to support the nation’s struggling businesses from the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
The Restaurant Revitalization Program, created by Congress and funded through the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan relief package signed into law in March, received more than 186,200 applications within its first two days of opening this week, according to the White House.
Of those applications, 97,600 came from businesses owned and controlled by women, and 61,700 applications came from businesses with under $500,000 in annual pre-pandemic revenue.
For the first 21 days of the programme, the administration is prioritising applications from small businesses owned and controlled by women, veterans and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
Eligible businesses can apply for grants equal to their pandemic-related losses with a cap of $10m per business and $5m per location.
Reviving the nation’s bars and restaurants – what Joe Biden called the “gateway to opportunity” for many American workers – is among his first major tests as the US begins to crawl back to stability more than a year after the Covid-19 crisis began, both for the more than 2.3 million people who lost jobs in the industry over the last year, and Americans eager to return to “normal” activities like dining out.
“Restaurants are more than a major driver of our economy, they’re woven into the fabric of our communities,” Mr Biden said on Wednesday.
Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Biden visited Taqueria Las Gemelas in Washington DC, among the first restaurants to receive funds from the programme.
During the pandemic, the restaurant dropped from 55 employees to seven
It was awarded $677,000 from the programme.
Businesses that applied this week could expect to receive funds up to 14 days from applying, a “very rapid turnaround,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday.
The aid comes as roughly one-quarter of American restaurants and bars say they don’t plan to re-open following coronavirus-related closures, according to a forecast from OpenTable. The company reported reservations falling by 96 per cent in 2020.
The National Restaurant Association estimates that 110,000 places to eat and drink had shut down for good by the end of 2020. Bars were hit the hardest – those that stayed open lost 65 per cent of sales compared to previous years.
“We can do much better than than that,” Mr Biden said. “We want restaurants to play a big role in our recovery.”