SBA to disburse $180M in remaining RRF funds

Dive Brief:

  • The Small Business Administration confirmed it will distribute $180 million in unspent money allocated for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund as awards, the National Restaurant Association said in an email to Restaurant Dive.
  • The SBA will work with the Department of Justice to disburse the money, according to the NRA.
  • The NRA called for the distribution of the $180 million in a letter on July 27, after a Government Accountability Office report revealed the existence of unobligated funds on July 14.

Dive Insight:

While the $180 million is less than one percent of the total money allocated to the RRF, it represents a small win for restaurants, despite the fund’s larger shortfall in funding. A bill to refill the RRF with more than $40 billion passed the House of Representatives, but failed to pass the Senate earlier this year.

The SBA has not provided additional details as of press time on when the money would be released or the process by which it would be allocated. It also has not clarified yet whether restaurants that were approved for grants, but later had them rescinded as a result of litigation, would receive money from the $180 million.

Approximately 3,000 restaurants saw their application approvals revoked last year after lawsuits in Texas and Tennessee enjoined the agency’s priority distribution plan. Approximately 177,000 restaurants applied for but received no funding. Restaurants that did not receive funding have generally fared worse than those which did receive grants, according to the Independent Restaurant Coalition. 

The fight for a legislative refill, however, has not ended. On Aug. 2, the Independent Restaurant Coalition urged Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, to push to include a replenishment of the RRF in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, a major spending bill currently before the Senate.

“It’s not fair to help only some businesses navigate the rising cost of staying in business,” Erika Polmar, executive director of the IRC wrote in a letter to Sinema. “The government should not pick winners and losers — this pandemic impacted all of us, and we all deserve a fair shot.”

In the NRA’s letter to the SBA last month, Sean Kennedy, NRA Executive Vice President for Public Affairs, re-emphasized the urgency many operators feel in the face of record inflation, lagging sectoral employment and worsening macro-economic prospects.  

“Every dollar appropriated by Congress for restaurant relief needs to be unlocked and put in the hands of operators struggling to keep their doors open,” Kennedy wrote.