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What does Biden's COVID-19 relief bill mean for restaurants?

The new stimulus package includes $28.6 billion in grants for the restaurant industry
Happy business owner opening the door at a cafe wearing a facemask
"The $28.6 billion grant program about to be signed by President Biden will make the difference between shuttered storefronts and open doors," said IRC executive director Erika Polmar.Getty
/ Source: TODAY

The newest coronavirus stimulus package, known as the American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden on Thursday, includes funding for the vaccine rollout, stimulus checks and other assistance like federal unemployment benefits and rent relief.

The package also includes $28.6 billion in grants for the restaurant industry, which has been battered by the pandemic. That portion of the package, known as the RESTAURANTS Act, will be the first-ever grant relief program specifically intended for restaurants and bars.

The bill, which was developed in partnership with the Independent Restaurants Coalition (IRC), aims to provide grants of up to $5 million to individual restaurants and up to $10 million for restaurant groups. Grant allocations will be handled by the Small Business Administration (SBA).

IRC executive director Erika Polmar said in a statement on Wednesday that the grant program would save many restaurants.

"The $28.6 billion grant program about to be signed by President Biden will make the difference between shuttered storefronts and open doors," she said.

Restaurants can prepare to apply for funding through this website.

Which businesses are eligible for a grant?

According to a fact sheet shared by the National Restaurant Association (NRA), any "restaurant, food stand, food truck, food cart, caterer, saloon, inn, tavern, bar, lounge, brewpub, tasting room, taproom, licensed facility or premises of a beverage alcohol producer where the public may taste, sample, or purchase products, or other similar place of business in which the public or patrons assemble for the primary purpose of being served food or drink" that owns or operates 20 or fewer establishments is eligible to apply for a grant.

Restaurants must also submit a "good faith certification" that the "uncertainty of current economic conditions" makes the grant request necessary to "support ongoing operations" and that the money will be used for expenses that are "essential to maintaining operations."

How will the grant money be divided?

Different entities will receive different amounts of grant money. According to the NRA fact sheet, the grant amount will be "calculated by subtracting the 2020 revenues of the entity from the 2019 revenues." Restaurants that did not operate for all of 2019 "can receive the difference between 12x the average monthly revenue for 2019 and revenues of the eligible entity in 2020." Restaurants that did not open until 2020 can receive a grant "equal to the amount of expenses incurred by the entity minus any revenues received."

Restaurants can also request "additional amounts" to pay for 10 days of paid sick leave per employee for "the illness of the individual employee, care during the illness of the employee's immediate family, or child care due to COVID-19-related school closures."

Restaurants and establishments that already received aid under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) can still receive a grant, but the maximum value of the grant would be reduced by the amount of PPP or EIDL funds that were already spent, according to the NRA.

How are businesses being prioritized?

The program also prioritizes restaurants operated by "marginalized and underrepresented entities, with a focus on women, veterans, and minority-owned and operated eligible entities with annual revenues of less than $1.5 million," according to the fact sheet. Establishments that meet that criteria will be able to apply in the first two weeks of the program. Funding is also allocated for "outreach to traditionally marginalized and underrepresented communities" and the creation of a resource center.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement that restaurants would see the impact of the bill soon.

“We’ll stick with restaurants and make sure it’s implemented quickly and fairly," said Schumer. "If we need to renew it, we’ll be there as well.”