On Monday, May 3, the Small Business Administration (SBA) began accepting grant applications from restaurants suffering revenue loss due to COVID-19 through the newly established Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF).
The funding has been made available to restaurants and other eligible businesses to help keep their doors open.
The Sentinel caught up with Community System Navigator Misty Burris last Saturday as she hit the pavement on Main Street, stopping by each restaurant to see if they had registered for the program.
“I really gained a deeper insight to the current state of our restaurant owners’ stresses about labor and unpredictable reopening, among other major concerns,” she said.
Burris also visited Creswell, Springfield and South Eugene restaurants in an effort to get businesses connected to the program.
“Entering Eugene to motivate restaurant owners was a true reality check,” she said. “I needed a team to even scratch the surface of everyone most impacted.”
Burris reported that only four restaurants had registered as most owners assumed the RRF was a program they did not qualify for. Nearly every business, too, was seeking labor as only two restaurants said they did not need it, she said.
The SBA currently has $28.6 billion in grant funds to boost the restaurant industry. The funds were allocated from the $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package, the American Rescue Plan, Congress recently passed in March.
According to the National Restaurant Association, there are more than 110,000 bars and restaurants closed — at least temporarily — during the pandemic that could potentially qualify for this funding.
The RRF was established to 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.
Minimum funding is set at $1,000, meaning applications requesting less will not be accepted.
Recipients are not required to repay the funding as long as funds are used for eligible uses no later than March 11, 2023.
Eligible uses include expenses such as business payroll costs, rent payments, utility payments, maintenance and construction of outdoor seating, among others.
According to the SBA guidelines, eligible businesses include:
• Food stands, food trucks, food carts
• Bars, saloons, lounges, taverns
• Snack and nonalcoholic beverage bars
• Bakeries (onsite sales to the public comprise at least 33% of gross receipts)
• Brewpubs, tasting rooms, taprooms (onsite sales to the public comprise at least 33% of gross receipts)
• Breweries and/or microbreweries (onsite sales to the public comprise at least 33% of gross receipts)
• Wineries and distilleries (onsite sales to the public comprise at least 33% of gross receipts)
• Inns (onsite sales of food and beverage to the public comprise at least 33% of gross receipts)
• Licensed facilities or premises of a beverage alcohol producer where the public may taste, sample, or purchase products
Burris, who is also the director of the educational nonprofit Oregon Institute for A Better Way, recently founded her organization called Community System Navigators in order to help businesses work through this process.
Burris’ background is in grant writing and business strategy in the agriculture sector, but she said she felt compelled to become involved in the RRF program following her experience with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act last year.
“Oregon was an excellent example during the pandemic,” she said. “When food security was a struggle and a problem, there was barely a hiccup from farm to consumer.”
Burris hopes to similarly grease the skids in the current program and has noticed that restaurant owners’ hesitancy to engage a complicated process might be one hinderance.
“My goal is to get … every one of them to register and attempt to apply,” she said.
The SBA states that there are currently three ways to apply for the RRF: through a recognized SBA Restaurant Partner; through SBA directly at restaurants.sba.gov; or by phone at 844-279-8898.
More information can be found at www.sba.gov/restaurants or www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/covid-19-relief-options/restaurant-revitalization-fund.
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