Federal funds offer lifeline to hospitality industry
More than $28 billion in pandemic-relief grants are now available to restaurants, bars and food suppliers, thanks to a new SBA Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
Online applications opened May 3 at noon, and will remain open until all funds are exhausted.
“These grants are going to provide direct aid to hospitality businesses that have suffered great losses throughout our country and especially here in the epicenter of the epicenter in Queens,” said Queens Chamber of Commerce president & CEO Tom Grech, who was joined last week by elected officials and other business leaders in Flushing to kick off the federal effort.
Congresswoman Grace Meng, who helped secure the grant program through the newly enacted American Rescue Plan, is encouraging Queens businesses to apply.
“Queens deserves more because we have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus,” she said. “We need to make sure that our restaurants get their fair share back.”
Before the pandemic, there were 23,000 restaurants and bars throughout the five boroughs providing more than 300,000 jobs. According to the state Comptroller’s Office, employment in the city’s restaurant industry fell to 91,000 in April, with sales plummeting more than 70 percent.
“It’s essential for us to support and enact policies to help these businesses in their time of need,” Meng added.
Yoon Joo Lee said her family’s once bustling Korean barbecue restaurant, Hahm Ji Bach, is barely surviving.
“We almost had to close, but with the money from these funds, we hope it will help us continue towards the American Dream,” she said.
The new program will provide restaurants and other eligible businesses with funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss. For the first 21 days, however, the SBA will approve claims from priority groups, which include businesses owned by women, veterans and individuals who are socially and economically disadvantaged.
Establishments that are publicly traded or owned by a state or local government are not eligible, nor are franchise owners that operate more than 20 restaurants.
Businesses can apply through SBA-recognized Point of Sale vendors or directly through the SBA using the application at restaurants.sba.gov. The maximum grant size is $5 million for restaurants and $10 million for restaurant groups. The minimum amount is $1,000.
Recipients are not required to repay the funding as long as funds are used by March 11, 2023.
“The diversity of our restaurant industry is really what makes Queens great,” said Assemblyman David Weprin. “We’ve been suffering over the last year and New York City is a little slower to open than the rest of the state.
But the worst is behind us, the vaccines are here and we are beginning to get out of this mess,” he added. “Hopefully the best is yet ahead.”