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Published in Small Business

$28.6 billion in relief grants now available for Michigan restaurants

BY Monday, May 03, 2021 04:51pm

Restaurant owners can start applying today for $28.6 billion available under the federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

Nationwide restaurant and food service sales were down $280 billion from expected levels between March 2020 and April 2021, with 110,000 restaurants closing permanently or long term, according to the National Restaurant Association. The relief funding is available through the U.S. Small Business Administration under the American Rescue Plan, or President Biden’s stimulus plan signed into law in March. 

Businesses given priority have 21 days to apply for the funds, but applications from all eligible applicants will be accepted if they are submitted during the prioritization period. Priority businesses must be owned and controlled by women, veterans, or socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. After 21 days, all eligible applicants will be funded on a first come, first served basis until the funds are exhausted.

“Restaurant owners and other food establishments have made incredible sacrifices over the past year to keep their communities safe and slow the spread of COVID-19,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. “This vital relief will help ensure they can keep their doors open and continue to serve their communities while also ensuring their workers can stay employed entering the critical summer season.” 

The funding provides long-awaited help for restaurants that are on a “long path to recovery,” Tom Bené, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, said in a statement. 

“The question on the minds of many is what happens when applications outpace the available funds,” Bené added. “Restaurants are operating in an uncertain environment, with continued needs to restore customer confidence in their safety and to bring workers back into the economy. We will continue to work with policymakers to secure a comprehensive set of solutions, including additional funding for the (Restaurant Revitalization Fund).”

It is becoming “increasingly apparent” that a 70 percent COVID-19 vaccination rate is at least several months away, highlighting the need for additional financial support for the hospitality industry as it remains under capacity restrictions, Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association (MRLA), said in a statement. 

The MRLA today released policy recommendations for distributing the $28.6 billion in total hospitality support. The group is also calling for an additional $250 million for a statewide effort to help small restaurant operators meet anticipated needs that exceed funding from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. 

The MRLA is also proposing that funds be used to offer incentives to book meetings and events in Michigan, as well as waiving various inspection fees and taxes for hospitality businesses. The group’s proposals also include starting a fund for helping restaurants and event spaces improve ventilation and air quality, offering cash incentives for hospitality employees who are hired or rehired, and creating an industry-specific job board.

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