The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is targeting early April to launch a phased rollout of the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), a senior SBA official testified during a Senate Small Business Committee hearing.
The American Rescue Plan Act, P.L. 117-2, created the RRF to provide restaurants with grants equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss, up to $10 million per entity, or $5 million per physical location. Restaurants and bars have been among the hardest hit businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, and members of the Senate Small Business Committee pushed for answers on how quickly the program could be launched.
Patrick Kelley, associate administrator for the SBA’s Office of Capital Access, told committee members that the SBA is working on developing a technology solution capable of deploying hundreds of thousands of grants to restaurants, bars, and other eligible providers of food and drink.
“We are focused like a laser on starting it up as quickly as possible,” he said.
The SBA is aiming to work with the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to build a platform scaled in a way that it can leverage partners such as point-of-sale vendors, which can provide relevant sales data, Kelley said. The new platform could use that information to help automate parts of the application and grant calculation process.
“By drafting off (the point-of-sale vendors) and posting our own web application, we believe we can reach the broadest market segment fast,” Kelley said.
Ideally, he said, the SBA would be able over the next seven to 10 days to begin posting RRF information, such as guidance and required documentation, relevant to potential applicants. The program would then move to a pilot phase, in which the program would begin accepting applications based on prioritization established in the American Rescue Plan Act, which sets aside $5 billion for the smallest applicants ($500,000 or less in 2019 gross receipts) and requires that during the first 21 days of the grants, the SBA will prioritize applications from restaurants owned and operated or controlled by women, veterans, or socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
After the prioritization /pilot phase, grants would become available more broadly.
“That would typically unfurl over 30 to 45 days,” Kelley said.
The grant funds may be used to pay for the following eligible expenses:
- Payroll costs;
- Principal and interest payments on a mortgage, not including any prepayments on principal.
- Rent payments, not including prepayments;
- Maintenance expenses including construction to accommodate outdoor seating and walls, floods, deck surfaces, furniture, fixtures, and equipment;
- Supplies including personal protective equipment and cleaning materials;
- Food and beverage expenses within the eligible entity's scope of normal business practice before the covered period, which runs from Feb. 15, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2021, or another date as determined by the SBA;
- Covered supplier costs;
- Operational expenses;
- Paid sick leave; and
- Any other expenses the SBA determines to be essential to maintaining the eligible entity.
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— Jeff Drew (Jeff.Drew@aicpa-cima.com) is a JofA senior editor.