The Small Business Administration has set a target for next month to begin taking applications for the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund grants, Patrick Kelley, associate administrator for the SBA’s Office of Capital Access confirmed in a Small Business Committee senate hearing on Wednesday.
Kelley said that the SBA will likely start posting relevant qualifications, instructions and other information for restaurant operators over the next 7-10 days and give guidance on supporting documents needed to apply. Then, applications would be open to prioritized groups, including women, veterans and oppressed groups, who would receive prioritization for the first wave of grants, before being opened up to a wider rollout.
The whole process, he said, will take place over the next 30-45 days, and that the government agency is “focused like a laser” on getting the applications up and running.
“We get it,” Kelley told the committee. “We are working as fast as we can and around the clock to get the restaurant relief program up off the ground. And so, the timeframe we’re trying to go for is in the next 30 days.”
Part of the reason the process is taking so long is that the SBA has to build a technology platform from scratch that’s capable of dealing with the crush of applications and likely automating the process so it’s as efficient as possible. Once it’s up and running, the grants will function like direct payments to the applicants.
Kelley said they are also in talks with third-party POS vendors to discuss accessing relevant sales data needed for application processing.
“Getting clear information out as quickly as possible is essential,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, (D-N.H.) during the hearing. “if [businesses] don’t get the guidance soon for how they can apply, they may not be able to survive.”
The Restaurant Revitalization Fund passed, along with the rest of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan on March 11. The funding for the restaurant relief is divided into government-funded grants with a maximum of $10 million per restaurant group or $5 million per individual restaurant location. Eligible businesses include foodservice and drinking establishments that are not part of an affiliated restaurant group with more than 20 locations and are not publicly traded.
See our previous article detailing the breakdown of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund here.
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