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Restaurant relief fund opens Monday

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Restaurants and other food and drink businesses can sign up now to apply for grants of up to $10 million from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The Restaurant Revitalization Fund will begin processing grant applications at 10 a.m. Mountain Time on Monday, according to the SBA website, www.sba.gov.

Businesses not wanting to apply online can work with point-of-sale vendors such as Square, Toast, Clover, NCR Corp. and Oracle. They do not need to pre-register on the SBA site if working with Square or Toast, according to the SBA.

The Restaurant Revitalization Fund was created by the American Rescue Plan signed into law in March, but the concept was being worked on by industry and government leaders since shortly after the coronavirus pandemic was prevalent in the United States in March 2020.

The fund has $28.6 billion to allocate. Grants can be for a minimum of $1,000 to a maximum of $10 million per business, with a limit of $5 million for each physical location.

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For the first 21 days, funding priority will be given to operations owned by women, veterans or socially or economically disadvantaged individuals. The SBA also has set aside money specifically for smaller businesses, as determined by 2019 gross receipts.

A range of food and drink businesses can apply if they meet the criteria. They include restaurants; caterers; snack and beverage stands; food trucks and stands; bakeries; bars, tasting rooms, pubs, breweries and wineries; and inns that serve food and beverages.

COVID-related business losses and expenses occurring from February 2020 to March 2023 can be covered by the grants.

According to a news release from the Independent Restaurant Coalition, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund is modeled after the Restaurant Act, first suggested to the U.S. Congress by the coalition in April 2020.

In its request last year to Congress, the coalition indicated that it represented about 500,000 independent restaurants that employ about 11 million people and are estimated to contribute $1 trillion a year to the national economy.

The coalition also said that prior business relief legislation, such as the Paycheck Protection Program, had restrictions and requirements that made many food and drink businesses ineligible.

Research by the National Restaurant Association found that, in 2020, industry sales declined $270 billion; 110,000 restaurants closed permanently or for a long period; and jobs declined by two million. Its data also indicated that 32% of restaurant operators thought it could take seven months to a year for business conditions to return to normal.

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