Restaurant Revitalization Fund: ENTRÉE Act May Add $60 Billion in Relief
Thousands of restaurants across the country continue to struggle with the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. And while the federal government stepped in in May to offer relief dollars through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, demand far outweighed supply. Recent reports indicate that a group of Congress members want to step in and replenish the grant program.
Here’s what employers need to know about the latest developments with the RRF.
Note: This article has been updated to reflect legislative attempts to replenish the RRF since the ENTREE Act was introduced.
What is the Restaurant Revitalization Fund?
The Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) is a $28 billion Small Business Administration (SBA) grant program that was designed to help support the food and drinks service industry impacted by pandemic shutdowns. It was included in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA).
CBS News reported in May 2021 that after the official debut of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, the SBA received more than three times the number of applicants than expected. As a result, CBS News reported that “more than 362,000 eligible businesses ended up applying for nearly $75 billion in assistance through the program.”
The SBA closed applications on May 24, 2021, leaving almost $50 billion in unmet needs.
Congress Introduces ENTRÉE Act to Add $60 Billion in RRF Relief Dollars
In late July, Nation's Restaurant News reported that Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer introduced the ENTRÉE Act in the House of Representatives to add an additional $60 billion in relief dollars to the fund. In addition to this new funding, the proposed legislation would distribute dollars on a first-come, first-serve basis—rather than prioritizing funds for small businesses owned and operated by women, veterans, and/or socially or economically disadvantaged individuals, as did the RRF.
In the previous month, a bipartisan group of senators and representatives had introduced a similar measure—dubbed the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act of 2021—to add $60 billion to the relief fund.
Neither piece of legislation has yet been passed into law.
More recently in the Senate, an objection blocked a bipartisan unanimous consent motion that would have provided an additional $48 billion in funding.
Even as the restaurant industry's recovery is disrupted by labor shortages and the Delta variant, attempts to replenish RRF funding seem increasingly less likely to succeed.
How Can Restaurants Use RRF Relief Dollars?
As a reminder, the SBA says that grant funding can be used to pay for the following expenses:
- Business payroll costs (including sick leave)
- Payments on any business mortgage obligation
- Business rent payments (but not the prepayment of rent)
- Business debt service (both principal and interest but not the prepayment of principal or interest)
- Business utility payments
- Business maintenance expenses
- Construction of outdoor seating
- Business supplies (including protective equipment and cleaning materials)
- Food and beverage expenses (including raw materials) related to the business
- Covered supplier costs
- Business operating expenses
What Else Should Employers Know About Changes to the RRF?
Talks are still in progress and there is no available timetable to add relief dollars to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. With this in mind, it’s possible that Congress could amend certain provisions in the RRF to make funds more easily available for establishments that haven’t received relief yet. (Similar adjustments were made to the Paycheck Protection Program—commonly known as the PPP—in 2020 and 2021.)
Employers should stay on top of all the latest updates regarding the RRF and other COVID-19-related legislation that may pass in the coming weeks and months. Likewise, if organizations still need relief dollars from the RRF, HR should learn how to fill out the application and become acquainted with the various ins and outs of the program.
This blog will be updated as more information becomes available.
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