Watch Now: Illinois Restaurants Receive $ 1.4 Billion In Funding Before Federal Program Runs Out | State and regional


Governor Pritzker joins the US Small Business Administration to stop at a small business affected by the pandemic, La Catedral Café & Restaurant in Chicago.



Small Business Administration chief Isabel Guzman visited Chicago on Friday as thousands of the city’s restaurateurs digested some bad news.

The SBA has announced that funds for its $ 29 billion restaurant pandemic relief program have run out, leaving nearly two-thirds of applicants out of money.

Launched in April as part of President Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief program, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund has offered the struggling industry a lifeline in the form of grants to cover pandemic-related losses of up to $ 10 million per company and $ 5 million per location.

In Illinois, 4,524 restaurants have received grants totaling more than $ 1.4 billion, with an average grant of about $ 309,000, the SBA said.

The SBA did not disclose the number of Illinois restaurants that applied.

Nationally, the SBA has received more than 278,000 applications for more than $ 72 billion in funding. It awarded $ 28.6 billion to approximately 101,000 restaurants before closing the program on June 30.

“When we launched this program, we communicated widely that the request was going to exceed $ 28.6 billion,” said Guzman, who was appointed by Biden and was sworn in as a SBA administrator in March. . “We couldn’t serve everyone. But we were very happy that we were able to distribute the funds quickly and efficiently and that there was such interest. “

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Guzman, who spent Friday meeting with small business owners from Little Village to Wrigleyville, inherited a federal agency whose portfolio expanded significantly during the pandemic thanks to emergency relief programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program, the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

“The SBA has changed forever because of COVID in terms of the scope of its program,” Guzman said. “We have gone from a portfolio of $ 40 billion to over $ 1,000 billion.”

The Restaurant Fund was the first federal pandemic initiative to specifically target the hard-hit industry.

With indoor restaurants closed in many states for much of the year, restaurant sales fell $ 240 billion in 2020, nearly 27% below expected levels, according to the National Restaurant. Association.

There were more than 25,000 restaurants in Illinois before the pandemic. That number is expected to drop below 20,000 in the post-pandemic landscape – without additional federal relief, according to Sam Toia, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association.

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“We have always known that the Restaurant Revitalization Fund was a solid down payment, but not enough to cover the urgent needs of the entire industry,” said Toia.

More than half of the money distributed in Illinois went to 1,518 Chicago restaurants which received nearly $ 733 million. The average restaurant subsidy in Chicago was around $ 483,000, according to the SBA.

Toia said restaurants in Chicago’s central business district were among the hardest hit in the state, as working from home and the prolonged suspension of tourism and events kept diners away.






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“Restaurants in our central business district will not revert to pre-pandemic sales until we recover from conventions, business meetings and tourism,” Toia said, highlighting the special edition of summer of the Chicago Auto Show in July as a modest sign. hope. “Restaurants are still struggling here, even as we come back to the new normal. “

Lawmakers and industry advocates are proposing a measure to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund with $ 60 billion, but it is not clear whether Congress will act on the measure with a larger infrastructure package in their hands. plate.

To complicate matters, the RRF program ended in a whirlwind of controversy over the SBA’s efforts to prioritize women and minority applicants.

Last year, the SBA approved 5.2 million recoverable PPP loans worth $ 525 billion, but the program has come under fire after banks allegedly prioritized large customers – including publicly traded companies – before small businesses.

The federal government relaunched the P3 in January with additional funding of $ 284 billion and an increased focus on companies left behind during last year’s program.

The Restoration Fund was created with a similar purpose to help underserved homeowners. For the first 21 days, the SBA only accepted applications from restaurants that are at least 51% owned by women, veterans, or those who are socially and economically disadvantaged.

In May, court rulings that found the SBA’s policy of prioritizing pandemic relief seekers unconstitutional forced the agency to suspend the process and cancel nearly 3,000 approved requests.

“We were required to stop all treatment,” Guzman said. “It included ongoing businesses, and we couldn’t go ahead with funding these restaurants.”

Owners of underserved restaurants received about $ 18 billion from the program before the court order, the SBA said.

Guzman said the agency has contacted restaurateurs who lost their approved grants, trying to find alternative programs to support their recovery.


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