Business

Revitalization fund brought more than $9 million to help local restaurants stay afloat

More than $9 million has been distributed to North Fork businesses through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, according to data published by the Small Business Administration.

The fund was established by the American Rescue Plan Act, a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill implemented in March. The ARPA appropriated $28.6 billion to the restaurant fund, according to the SBA. The RRF has provided restaurants and other eligible businesses with funding equal to pandemic-related revenue losses up to $10 million per business, and no more than $5 million per physical location.

“The U.S. Small Business Administration’s implementation of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and other traditional loan programs have helped the smallest of small businesses across Long Island and the nation survive, and the work continues,” said Matthew Coleman, a spokesperson for the SBA. “In the midst of a global pandemic, the SBA delivered a record number of its traditional loans to small businesses while also scaling up to meet the immense demand for COVID-related economic relief.”

No business on the North Fork received close to a $5 million grant, although East Wind Long Island in Wading River came closest at just over $2.1 million. Hound’s Tree Wines, a vineyard in Mattituck with a tasting room in Brooklyn, was the only other North Fork business to break $1 million. Wineries and tasting rooms qualify under the program, so long as “onsite sales to the public comprise at least 33% of gross receipts.”

Kareem Massoud, president of the Long Island Wine Council, said many wineries were able to access PPP funding as well as employee retention credits amid the pandemic and emphasized that the need varied greatly depending on a winery’s business model.

“Those who did a lot of weddings, events and wholesale in the city were most severely impacted and so their need for assistance might be larger than another winery whose tasting room business has basically been booming,” he said.

The Paycheck Protection Program, which ended May 31, was created as part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March 2020. The program was authorized to distribute up to $659 billion to small businesses to go towards “job retention and certain other expenses,” according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Two franchise businesses, Subway in Riverhead and Dunkin’ Donuts in Wading River, also won grants totaling a little over $80,000 each.

A Newsday analysis indicates that just 12% of eligible businesses on Long Island were awarded grants from the program before it ran out of money, averaging $248,250 per allocation. About 40 businesses received more than $1 million each, while nearly 500 were granted less than $100,000, according to Newsday.

More than 101,000 restaurants won grants nationally, including 9,775 in New York, according to a SBA spokesperson. The program granted more than $3.6 billion to New York restaurants, bars and eateries before closing due to lack of appropriations on June 30. More than 278,300 restaurants submitted applications to RRF, with requests totaling over $72.2 billion.

“The grant was extremely helpful,” said Carolyn Iannone, owner of Love Lane Kitchen in Mattituck. “There were moments this year that I wasn’t sure how I was going to manage.”

Love Lane Kitchen used a $124,044 grant to cover payroll. Ms. Iannone credited her accountant for helping her apply the moment the RRF application was available. She said she spent a lot of time researching resources available to businesses like her own, looking for the help she needed to get through the pandemic.

“I felt sort of desperate,” she said. “I don’t even want to think about the decisions I would have had to make if it wasn’t for these programs, like the PPP loans for example.”

Marissa Drago, owner of Main Road Biscuit Co. in Jamesport, said the grant helped keep“almost all of our staff employed.”

“We used all our grants and loans for supporting our staff,” she said.

Front Street Station in Greenport applied the first day the RRF application was available, a spokesperson said. The grant helped keep the business afloat.

While the funds weren’t used for outdoor seating accommodations — the business credits the Greenport Village Business Improvement District for helping set up parklets — the grant went towards “supplies, and purveyors and, you know, just to keep things going.”

“These programs helped us get through the darkest times so when the dust settles, we are still here to continue to do what we do — work hard, prepare, cook and serve some really great food in a really positive atmosphere to an incredible community,” Ms. Iannone said. “I think that’s why the program was designed in the first place, to prevent the loss of places like LLK. I hope that it helped its other recipients and saved some small businesses that are so important to our communities.”

RRF recipients are not required to repay the grants, so long as funds have been put towards eligible uses no later than March 11, 2023, according to the SBA. RRF prioritized women, veterans and minority business owners in a 21day exclusivity period.

Eligible uses include payroll, debts, rent, utilities, maintenance, outdoor seating, supplies and other operating expenses. Recipients must report how much of their award has been used against each eligible use category by the end of the year, on an annual basis until their funds run out or the 2023 deadline.

A bipartisan bill proposing an additional $60 billion for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund was introduced in the House of Representatives in June.

“The $28.6 billion originally allocated in the Restaurant Revitalization Fund was a huge step in addressing the ongoing and unique economic crisis that our nation’s restaurants weathered this past year. The demand for the fund simply outpaced the supply, and we need to ensure these businesses get the resources they desperately need,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), who has publicly supported the bill, said in a July press release.

A large number of RRF applicants did not receive funding due to high volume and court cases halting the applicant prioritization provision, according to Ms. Gillibrand’s office. Lawsuits filed early this summer by white business owners claimed the priority period was discriminatory, causing the SBA to rescind funds for thousands of applicants.

SBA does not comment on pending litigation, Mr. Coleman said.

He noted that in addition to SBA’s traditional funding programs, the SBA COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan program will accept new applications until the end of the year.

WITH TARA SMITH AND LEE MEYER