RI Delegation Calls for Additional Support for Local Restaurants
$180 million in unobligated Restaurant Revitalization Fund dollars could make a major difference for restaurants still dealing with pandemic fallout
PROVIDENCE, RI – U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline are calling on the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide additional support to Rhode Island restaurants that are still dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and have been shut out of the Restaurant Revitalization Program. The Restaurant Revitalization Fund still has $180 million in unobligated funds, which the four members of Rhode Island’s delegation contend should be distributed in another funding round that would prioritize Ocean State establishments.
“While we are disappointed that congressional Republicans have prevented Congress from sufficiently funding RRF, we understand SBA still has $180 million in unobligated program funds. Even with some set aside for litigation or required to be sent to the Department of the Treasury, awards on that scale could make a transformative difference for the numerous restaurants still struggling with aftershocks from the pandemic’s economic crash,” wrote Rhode Island’s congressional delegation.
In a letter to SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman, the delegation requested that the SBA use those remaining program dollars to prioritize restaurants in states with the lowest percentage of funded eligible applicants to ensure program funds are distributed in a geographically equitable manner, which would provide significant relief to eligible Rhode Island food businesses.
Only 30 percent of Rhode Island restaurants that applied to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund received relief – the lowest rate in the country and more than 10 percentage points lower than any other New England state. Applications were considered on a first-come, first-served basis and many smaller restaurants with fewer resources were not able to file fast enough.
Democrats created the Restaurant Revitalization Fund through the American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law in March 2021. The Restaurant Revitalization Fund provided grants to restaurants dealing with COVID-19 for payroll, mortgage and rent payments, business debt service, utilities, maintenance, outdoor seating, business supplies, food and beverage costs, certain supplier costs, and other operating expenses. A total of 446 Rhode Island restaurant operators received over $106 million in aid from the program.
Senate Republicans blocked bipartisan legislation in May that would have appropriated an additional $40 billion for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund—enough to provide all RRF applicants that had not received any assistance with full grants. The bill failed to receive the necessary 60 votes after all but five Republicans voted against considering the measure.
Full text of the letter is available here.