- By Gina T. Reily
SBA soon to roll out economic relief program for food and beverage industry
Guam’s food and beverage businesses affected by the coronavirus-triggered lockdowns may soon expect economic relief from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
SBA today announced the forthcoming launch of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), a $28.6 billion program aimed at helping bring jobs back and revive America’s dining industry.
The RRF is a component of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.
“Today, we are starting the process to help restaurants and bars across the country devastated by the pandemic, and this is our message: Help is here,” said SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman.
In the next two weeks prior to the application launch, SBA will implement a seven-day pilot period for the RRF application portal and conduct extensive outreach and training.
The program will apply to the following businesses:
o Food stands, food trucks, food carts
o Bars, saloons, lounges, taverns
o Snack and nonalcoholic beverage bars
o Bakeries (onsite sales to the public comprise at least 33% of gross receipts)
o Brewpubs, tasting rooms, taprooms (onsite sales to the public comprise at least 33 percent of gross receipts)
o Breweries and/or microbreweries (onsite sales to the public comprise at least 33 percent of gross receipts)
o Wineries and distilleries (onsite sales to the public comprise at least 33% of gross receipts)
o Inns (onsite sales of food and beverage to the public comprise at least 33% of gross receipts)
o Licensed facilities or premises of a beverage alcohol producer where the public may taste, sample, or purchase products
“With the launch of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, we’re prioritizing funding to the hardest-hit small businesses – irreplaceable gathering places in our neighborhoods and communities that need a lifeline now to get back on their feet.”
The restaurant industry has been among the hardest-hit sectors during the economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The SBA will administer the funds to the hardest-hit small restaurants.
“And, thanks to clear directives from Congress, we’re rolling out this program to make sure that these businesses can meet payroll, purchase supplies and get what they need in place to transition to today’s COVID-restricted marketplace,” Guzman said.
Guzman emphasized, “We’re also focused on ensuring that the RRF program’s application process is streamlined and free of burdensome, bureaucratic hurdles – while still maintaining robust oversight. Under my leadership, the SBA aims to be as entrepreneurial as the entrepreneurs we serve – and that means meeting every small business where they are, and giving them the support they need to recover, rebuild and thrive.”
The pilot period will be used to address technical issues ahead of the public launch. Participants in this pilot will be randomly selected from existing PPP borrowers in priority groups for RRF and will not receive funds until the application portal is open to the public.
Following the pilot, the application portal will be opened to the public. The official application launch date will be announced at a later date.
For the first 21 days that the program is open, the SBA will prioritize reviewing applications from small businesses owned by women, veterans, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. Following the 21-day period, all eligible applicants are encouraged to submit applications.
The groundwork for this announcement is the result of a comprehensive effort to reach out to diverse stakeholders in order to understand the needs and barriers restaurants face in accessing emergency relief aid.
“Local restaurants and bars are being served very good news today,” said Erika Polmar, executive director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition.
Polmar said the guidelines were crafted by the SBA after conversations with independent restaurant and bar operators across the country.
“We are grateful to the SBA for their hard work to make this process as accessible as possible in a short period of time,” she added.
Community business leaders from underserved communities also welcomed RRF assistance as much-needed economic relief and are working with their broad membership bases to navigate the grant application process.
“In addition to historically having less operating liquidity and revenue than almost any other small business demographic, Black-owned restaurants received significantly less stimulus funding during the COVID-19 pandemic, heightening challenges and leading to disproportionate closures,” said Ron Busby Sr., president and CEO, U.S. Black Chambers Inc. “The USBC believes this initiative and collaboration with the SBA will bring needed resources and relief to these often underserved businesses to aid in stabilization, recovery and ultimately, strengthen our economy.”
In addition to restaurant groups and leading advocacy groups for underserved business communities, the SBA has engaged national and state trade associations, and other small business stakeholders in recent weeks to understand their concerns about relief programs.
“Small and independent craft breweries are vibrant community gathering places that can be found in nearly every congressional district in the U.S. and contribute to manufacturing, hospitality, retail, tourism, and agricultural industries,” said Bob Pease, president and CEO of Brewers Association.
“We are pleased to work with the SBA to promote the Restaurant Revitalization Fund landing page and its available resources, and assist the breweries hit hardest by Covid-19 secure much-needed additional relief to help them survive the pandemic and prepare for the restart of the economy.”