The Biden administration is highlighting early applications for a $28.6 billion program for eateries that closed, shifted to take-out or restricted the number of diners to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
The White House said Wednesday that 186,200 restaurants, bars and other eligible businesses had applied for the program over its first two days of accepting applications. More than half of the applicants are owned by women, veterans or people from historically disadvantaged backgrounds. The aid for eateries was part of the Biden administration's broader $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. President Joe Biden plans to discuss the program in a Wednesday afternoon speech.
The coronavirus outbreak was especially brutal for restaurants. America lost nearly 2,700 dining establishments through last summer, according to the Labor Department. About 1.8 million food service jobs also have been lost, though the sector has been gradually returning jobs since last May.
Researchers at the not-for-profit Opportunity Insights found that consumer spending at hotels and restaurants plunged more than 60% in April 2020 compared with the start of that year. Spending is still down 4.5% compared with before the pandemic.
Under the Biden relief program, which started accepting applications on Monday, restaurants and bars can qualify for grants equal to their pandemic-related revenue losses, with a cap of $10 million per business and $5 million per location.
The program has set aside $9.5 billion for the smallest restaurants and bars, and a third of the applications were filed by businesses with annual pre-pandemic revenues of less than $500,000. For the program's first 21 days, applications from women, veterans and socially and economically disadvantaged people will have priority for being reviewed and funded.
Business owners seeking to apply for the program can receive more information at sba.gov/restaurants.