September 20, 2021 12:57 am

SBA Closes Restaurant Revitalization Fund

The Small Business Administration closed the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) June 30, leaving in the lurch restaurant owners who didn’t get funding they asked for, unless Congress appropriates more COVID-19 relief money for restaurants.

They include 2,965 restaurateurs whose applications were prioritized because their businesses were owned and controlled by “women, veterans, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals” — who lost funding due to court rulings saying that prioritizing those applications amounted to discrimination.

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“Being told I had the money and having it taken away was the worst. I really lost it,” says Elise Schumock, who owns Portland’s Rose City Book Pub and applied for relief during the fund’s priority application window.

Schumock was notified May 28 that she would be receiving funds through the SBA’s program; on June 12, she received an email from the SBA saying recent court rulings “preclude payment” of funding to priority recipients, of which she was one.

Late on the night of June 30, Schumock received another piece of discouraging news: The SBA has depleted the $28.6 billion it received through the fund and is closing it.

According to Sean Wilson, a spokesperson for the SBA’s Portland office, says applicants who didn’t receive funding through the RRF this spring “will have their applications held within the application platform to allow for processing in the order received if additional funds are provided by Congress.”

The SBA says it received more than 370,000 applications from restaurant owners across the United States and provided funding to more than 105,000 restaurants — representing $28.6 billion through funding approved by Congress this spring. Of those, 3,777 were small restaurants with gross receipts of less than $50,000 in 2019.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who has championed the bill, says the priority application period was created to ensure people who really needed the money would get it — as opposed to what happened with the Paycheck Protection Program. (A December 2020 analysis by American City Business Journals found that businesses in Black or Hispanic neighborhoods were less likely to receive funding than those in white neighborhoods.)

The decision to prioritize certain applicants sparked lawsuits from business owners in Texas and Tennessee, all funded by the America First Foundation, led by Stephen Miller, who advised former President Donald Trump.

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