Restaurant fund to help businesses clear final pandemic hurdles

Published: Tuesday, May 4, 2021 By: Journal Record Staff Source: The Journal Record

Bakeries, bars and other businesses that provide food or drink in Oklahoma and across the nation may benefit from a new Restaurant Revitalization Fund that officially opened on Monday.

Small Business Administration Chief Isabella Casillas recently announced the opening of applications to tap into the fund, established especially to help ensure that smaller, underserved businesses survive what hopefully will be the final months of the pandemic. It was designed to help just about any kind of business involved in food or beverage service.

Oklahoma Restaurant Association President and CEO Jim Hopper said the SBA program will provide additional, much-needed relief for payroll, rent and other expenses.

“Across Oklahoma, our restaurants, bakeries, bars and food trucks give our towns and neighborhoods their unique flavor, support the culture of the area they serve and provide a draw for retail and other economic activity,” Hopper said. “They have been hard hit during the pandemic and need support. We want restaurants to know that help is here.”

Cathy Cummings, owner of Vito’s Italian restaurant in northwest Oklahoma City, said the relief arrives at a good time.

“Business is picking up and I am confident the economy is rebounding. This will get us through what we hope is the last hurdle of a difficult year,” she said. “We will apply for the SBA program to help offset some of the overhead costs such as payroll and rent.”

Cummings said there were plenty of worrisome times over the past pandemic year, but Vito’s was able to avoid trimming staff.

“We have not laid off anyone, and we are very proud of that,” she said. “Our workers depend on us for their livelihoods.”

Established under the American Rescue Plan and signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund provides a total of $28.6 billion in direct relief funds to restaurants and other food establishments hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will provide restaurants with funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue losses up to $10 million per business, with no more than $5 million allowed per physical location. Funds must be used for allowable expenses by March 11, 2023.

“Recognizing the great urgency to help restaurants keep their doors open – and with a clear mandate from Congress – the SBA worked at a breakneck speed and is excited to launch this program,” SBA Associate Administrator Patrick Kelley said. “From day one, we engaged with diverse stakeholders in the food industry community to make sure we built and delivered the program equitably, quickly, and efficiently.”

Apply for the Restaurant Recovery Program at https://restaurants.sba.gov/. Oklahoma City has established a local number to answer questions or help central Oklahoma food and beverage businesses apply: 405-456-9351.

For the first 21 days, the SBA will prioritize funding applications from businesses owned and controlled by women, veterans, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. However, all eligible applicants are encouraged to apply. Following the 21 days, all eligible applications will be funded on a first-come, first-served basis.

Consistent with the legislation and the intent of Congress, the SBA continues to take steps to ensure the equitable distribution of relief, particularly for the smallest businesses, by creating a $9.5 billion set-aside: $5 billion for applicants with 2019 gross receipts of not more than $500,000; $4 billion is set aside for applicants with 2019 gross receipts from $500,001 to $1,500,000; and $500 million for applicants with 2019 gross receipts not more than $50,000.

For more information locally, call 405-456-9351. Local businesses may also register online.

This story originally ran on the JournalRecord.com. 

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