- The U.S. Small Business Administration announced Wednesday that applications for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund have already surpassed the program's $28.6 billion in grant money — less than two weeks after it opened. The SBA has received more than 266,000 applications representing $65 billion in requested funds, or more than double RRF's current cap.
- The SBA received more than 147,000 applications from women, veterans and socially and economically disadvantaged business owners to date, with requests totaling $29 billion. RRF is prioritizing these applicants for the first three weeks of the program's disbursement, ending May 21.
- The SBA is keeping its application portal open for restaurants with 2019 annual revenue of $50,000 or less because the administration "still has potential funding available" for these operators. It's possible that the RRF could be refilled, as well. Last week, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the White House will "discuss the best ways to further support small businesses, including restaurants hurt by the crisis."
SBA Associate Administrator Patrick Kelly warned before RRF even opened that there wouldn't be enough funds to support all eligible operators. Demand for the program's aid has been staggering — over 186,000 businesses applied in its first two days.
The SBA's numbers show that more than 13,100 RRF applications received so far have been from businesses with under $50,000 in pre-pandemic revenue, requesting $330 million in funds. Over 100,400 applications were from businesses with under $500,00 in revenue, requesting $8.14 billion. And over 61,500 applicants were from businesses with between $500,000 and $1.5 million in annual pre-pandemic revenue, requesting $15.1 billion in funds.
"The numbers show that we've been particularly successful at reaching the smallest restaurants and underserved communities that have struggled to access relief," SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman said in a press release. "These businesses are the pillars of our nation's neighborhoods and communities. We are making progress, but we have much more work to do as we continue reaching our underserved entrepreneurs."
The pace at which these funds have been requested shows the desperate need for relief that specifically targets the restaurant industry. Prior relief funds, notably through the SBA's Paycheck Protection Program — which was criticized for its strict and limited guidelines about how restaurants can use the money and the complexity of the application language — didn't provide a significant lifeline to restaurants. During the first round, for example, the hospitality sector only received 8% of PPP loans. The industry landed $18 billion in the latest PPP round in February.
Shortage aside, the RRF provides a much-needed stimulus for the devastated U.S. restaurant industry, which lost an estimated $240 billion in sales in 2020 and about 10% of all establishments since the start of the crisis.
"Right now, SBA has more than $36 billion in applications from small, struggling independent businesses that will not receive funding, so we continue to urge policymakers in Washington — from the White House to Capitol Hill — to replenish the RRF to maximize relief for small independent and franchise restaurant operators," Sean Kennedy, the National Restaurant Association's EVP of public affairs, said in an emailed statement.