SPRINGFIELD — The U.S. Small Business Administration started taking applications Monday for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, $28.6 billion in federal money available to eateries affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Restaurants and places of business, they have really had a tough run in the pandemic,” said U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield.
Neal, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, cited the industry estimate that 100,000 restaurants across the county have closed during the pandemic and will not reopen. That’s one in six.
“We want to make sure that the hemorrhaging we have seen in that arena is not continued,” Neal said. “But what is important to remember here is that the government ordered them to close. Now government is stepping in to assist them in getting back on their feet.”
Neal hosted a news conference Monday with Robert H. Nelson, district director of the Small Business Administration’s Massachusetts office; Nancy Creed, president of the Springfield Regional Chamber; and Chris Russell, executive director of the Springfield Business Improvement District.
Restaurants are eligible for grants as small as $1,000 or as big as $5 million for a single location and $10 million for one operator with multiple locations.
Nelson said the focus is going to be on small business. Also, the Small Business Administration will only approve applications over the first 21 days from firms owned by women, veterans, those who meet certain income limits and owners who are Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian-Pacific American or South Asian American.
“We want to make sure that the smallest of the small know about this program and how to access these dollars,” Nelson said.
And all sorts of food businesses are eligible.
“As far as businesses that are eligible for this, we are talking about bars, restaurants, food trucks, food carts, taverns, bakeries,” Nelson said.
The amount of the grant can be figured several ways, but the simplest would be to take the business’s 2019 gross receipts minus the 2020 gross and minus any money received from the federal Paycheck Protection Program.
For businesses that were not open all of 2019, they can take the monthly gross from when they were open, average and multiply by 12 to get an annualized number.
Businesses that have yet to open can total the amount they spent on eligible expenses incurred from Feb. 15, 2020, to March 11, 2021.
“This is not to fund an expansion,” Nelson said.
But it can be used for payroll, for mortgage and other loan payments, rent or to buy food or raw materials, buy protective equipment, upgrade ventilation systems or construct outdoor seating.
And Nelson said there are other Small Business Administration programs available to restaurants looking to expand.
Creed said the restaurant industry supports many other employers across the region, including contractors, suppliers, printers and media that carry advertising.
Russell said none of the restaurants in Springfield that work with the BID’s voluntary promotional programs have closed forever. But they have cut back and are hurting.