Restaurant aid program shutting down “like a punch in the gut”

Local News

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — A federal program to provide relief for restaurants through the pandemic has dried up. It’s called the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, established through the American Rescue Plan, which was passed earlier this year to provide pandemic assistance.

According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), it gave about $28.6 billion to hard-hit restaurants, which is less than half of the amount that restaurants across the country applied for. The SBA says more than 100,000 businesses were awarded, but about 278,000 had applied, asking for about $72.2 billion in grants.

Dave Henderson, the owner of Lynchburg’s Water Dog, says when he applied for the grant, he had a vision of what the funds would mean for his restaurant’s ability to recover from its pandemic losses.

He forwarded WFXR an email from the SBA, announcing the program had closed before his business was approved for a grant. The email said in part,

“Due to overwhelming demand, the SBA was unable to fund all qualified applications with the original appropriation provided in the American Rescue Plan Act. Those applicants who have not received funding as of this email will have their applications held within the application platform to allow for processing in the order received if additional funds are provided by Congress.”

SBA

“Felt a bit like a punch in the gut,” said Henderson.

Now he’s hoping a new bill in Congress will restart the program.

He wasn’t comfortable saying how much his grant application was for, but he says it would have been enough to get through the losses they endured.

“The dollars that we were previously awarded had to go to a very specific thing. The PPP had to go to payroll. But the restaurant itself had to make investments in order to be more COVID compliant. Not just face masks and cleaning supplies, but heaters and additional tables and chairs and these things that you’d never plan for pre-pandemic,” said Henderson.

For the Water Dog, that money would have helped them not just survive but to really move on from the pandemic.

“When the grant was announced, that allowed us to go, okay we will be able to recoup some of that. That helps us then continue on the vision we were headed pre-pandemic,” said Henderson.

With the funds dried up, he’s hoping Congress will act.

“So currently there is another bill in congress that does have bipartisan support that will hopefully put about 60 billion back into the pot so to speak for this fund,” said Henderson.

The versions of the bills currently in the House of Representatives and the Senate each have broad, bipartisan support from conservative, moderate, and progressive Representatives and Senators.

WFXR news reached out to all of our area representatives in Congress, none of whom are currently cosponsors of the bills.

Both U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine’s offices responded saying they would support the bill to add funds.

A spokesperson for Congressman Morgan Griffith said he won’t comment until there’s a final version of the bill. Neither Congressmen Bob Good nor Ben Cline responded.

All three Congressmen voted against the original American Rescue Plan, which established the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. Kaine and Warner voted for it.

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