Hong Do, co-owner of Cambodian restaurant Phnom Penh in the Laurel district of East Oakland, told The Oaklandside in January that the restaurant was staying afloat by providing meals to Cambodian refugees through the non-profit World Central Kitchen. At the start of the partnership, the restaurant sold an average of $ 8,000 worth of food to WCW each week. But with the organization now canceling restaurant orders to focus relief efforts in other countries, that number has dropped to around $ 2,000 a week, according to Do.
“Every drop [of money] we can do is help us, ”said Hong, who has explored other sources of funding in recent weeks. One of these was the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a $ 28.6 billion fund that was part of a larger COVID relief program, the American rescue plan, promulgated by President Biden in March.
Food businesses in Oakland and across the country have until Monday, May 24, to apply. Eligible businesses include restaurants, food trucks, bakeries, caterers, breweries, taprooms, and tasting rooms. A full list of eligibility requirements is available here.
To date, more than 300,000 businesses have requested the program, totaling $ 69 billion in requested funds, more than twice the amount available.
To ensure that small business owners receive assistance, $ 5 billion has been set aside for businesses with gross revenues not exceeding $ 500,000. These funds will be divided into separate groups: $ 500 million for applicants with gross receipts in 2019 not exceeding $ 50,000 and $ 4 billion for applicants with gross receipts between $ 500,000 and $ 1,500,000. The minimum amount of assistance a business can receive is $ 1,000, and applicants requesting less than this amount will be waived.
Phnom Penh had gross receipts totaling around $ 600,000 in 2019 and 2020, making it one of 34,010 applicants with gross receipts between $ 500,000 and $ 1,500,000, as of May 18. Unfortunately, Do said, he recently learned that his restaurant was not selected for funding. “What can I say, it was a bit disappointing,” he said.
Phnom Penh was also rejected from the first round of federal paycheck protection program loans early last year, but received about $ 22,000 in P3 loans through an additional round in March.
A recent Reveal Analysis of PPP loans showed that there were huge disparities between businesses in predominantly white neighborhoods, which received significantly more of these loans, and those in majority minority areas like East Oakland.
The Biden administration hopes to avoid similar inequalities with the Restaurant Relief Fund by reserving portions for businesses owned by women, minorities, veterans and socio-economically displaced people. But some are now questioning the program’s fairness to white business owners: A Texas federal judge on Tuesday released a preliminary hearing arguing that the relief fund discriminated against a white restaurateur.
Phillip Greer, the plaintiff and owner of Greer’s Ranch Cafe in Stephenville, Texas, said he lost more than $ 100,000 in income during the pandemic, but would be at a disadvantage receiving relief because, he claims it, the program gives priority to and economically disadvantaged people, “according to the wording of the information from the Small Business Administration page. (The SBA does not explicitly say that these types of businesses will be priority).
For Hong Do, a former refugee and longtime Oakland resident, receiving help from the Restaurant Relief Fund is a lost cause. “But we’re fine, in a way,” said Hong, who still hopes his family’s restaurant will continue to withstand the pandemic. “So far, everything is fine.”