The Hall on Franklin in Downtown Tampa, Florida. Photo credit: Alex Haney from Unsplash.

New SBA head pushes to restart the restaurant industry with billions in aid

Initial success of stimulus relief mandated Restaurant Revitalization Fund gives small businesses a big boost.

Recently appointed Small Business Administrator, Isabella Casillas Guzman, announced the initial results of the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF). As a part of this year’s American Rescue Plan, the legislation seeks to help eligible vulnerable small businesses remain open via federal economic aid.

Two days prior, the RRF began receiving applications, some in different languages, from various businesses across the nation and five of its territories. These establishments span the spectrum of the restaurant industry including bakeries, taverns/bars, caterers, breweries/wineries, distilleries, and other licensed facilities that provide food and beverages to consumers.

According to the SBA, “This program will provide restaurants with funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss up to $10 million per business and no more than $5 million per physical location. Recipients are not required to repay the funding as long as funds are used for eligible uses no later than March 11, 2023.”

Casillas Guzman announced that the SBA received a staggering 186,000 applications, with more than half of applications, or 97,600, being from “priority underserved business communities,” citing applications from the following businesses:

» 46,400 from woman-owned and controlled

» 4,200 from veterans

» 30,800 from socially and economically disadvantaged individuals

» 16,200 from some combination of the three aforementioned categories

Compounded with the socioeconomic strains on their owners, these businesses face a special set of obstacles that often leave them overshadowed and outweighed by stringent financial expenses. The U.S. Census reports in their 2019 Annual Business Survey (ABS) that about 1 million or 18 percent of all U.S. businesses were minority-owned and the same amount or 20 percent of all businesses being owned by women.

. . . .

Vice President Kamala Harris swears-in Isabella Guzman as Small Business Administrator Monday, March 22, 2021, in the Vice President’s Ceremonial Office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Casillas Guzman is a multicultural Mexican-American from an entrepreneurial Texan family. Her father was a prominent landowner who faced race-based violence that forced him to later move his family to Los Angeles. In California, Casillas Guzman served in a number of positions including being appointed as by Gov. Gavin Newsome. Hence, it is needless to say that she, along with many picks on the recently-appointed Biden administration, have made a commitment to prioritizing minority-owned and led establishments.

Before opening the RRF, the SBA engaged with entrepreneurs via thousands of virtual webinars informing them of the fund and encouraging application. They hoped to boost minority owners to apply.

The SBA reports, “…the funds are available for certain eligible uses, like payroll and rent. While all qualified businesses are allowed to apply, under the law, the SBA will prioritize RRF applications from small business concerns owned and controlled by women, veterans, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals for the first 21 days of the program.”

Preceding President Biden’s plan to revitalize struggling small businesses, COVID-19 ravished the small business economy. Approximately 10 percent American restaurants were permanently closed, with many more struggling to keep their doors open as the amount of employees and income decreased and expenses piled high, according to a report by Bloomberg. 

“Our nation’s restaurants have been among the first and worst hit by this pandemic, which is why we’ve been working as fast as possible to meet businesses where they are and get this much-needed relief into their hands,” said SBA Administrator Guzman. 

She continued, “As directed by Congress, we’re prioritizing historically underserved communities and smaller businesses to ensure this relief is going to those who need it the most. At the SBA, we know that our nation’s restaurants help propel our economy and sustain our neighborhoods and communities, and we will continue to work hard to ensure they get the resources they need to recover, rebuild and become resilient.”

The application process is typically 14 days. If approved, you can receive your funds within that time frame. Those interested in applying to the program should do so through sba.gov/restaurants. The fund will remain open until RRF funds have been fully exhausted. With the addition of the RRF to its list of accomplishments in the first 100 days, the Biden Administration is on track to keep some key promises to its constituency.

 “…The promising results send a clear message: The SBA is here to help America’s restaurants and bars get back on track.”

Yolanda Aguilera focuses on culture, policy, and Afro-Latinidad.

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