A total of 186,200 restaurants, bars and other eligible businesses requested help from a new $ 28.6 billion aid program in the first two days that applications were accepted, President Biden said Wednesday, pointing to the large one Demand of a struggling industry for limited aid money.
The Restaurant Revitalization Fund was created by Congress under the $ 1.9 trillion bill passed in March. Entrepreneurs hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic can apply for grants of up to $ 10 million.
The return of the hospitality industry will be a major test of Mr. Biden’s goal of getting back to normal, both for 2.3 million people whose restaurant jobs disappeared during the pandemic and for vaccinated Americans looking to go out and socialize again.
Mr. Biden, who promotes the new fund, said on Wednesday that restaurants are “woven into the fabric of our communities,” citing the industry as one of the best avenues for many people to realize the American dream.
“One in three Americans who work in a restaurant has done their first job,” said Biden. “More than half of all Americans have worked in a restaurant at some point in their life.”
For the first 21 days, the Small Business Administration will only approve claims from companies that are majority-owned by women, veterans, or individuals who are considered both socially and economically disadvantaged.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that 97,600 of the applications received in the first two days of the program were from companies belonging to people who fell into these categories.
“We look forward to the implementation of this program,” said Psaki, emphasizing the high demand for aid money. However, it is not clear that high demand is necessarily a good thing for a program that has limited funding and has to turn away many businesses in need.
“We know that $ 28.6 billion is not enough to meet demand,” said Isabella Casillas Guzman, the small business administrator, last week. “However, we need to demonstrate that demand and encourage everyone to apply and access this fund as much as possible and show what remaining needs are out there.”
Ms. Psaki said the administration was open to receiving more funding from Congress in the future. Mr Biden said the high demand should prove to skeptics that the program is badly needed.
Prior to his own remarks at the White House, Mr. Biden bought tacos and enchiladas from Taqueria Las Gemelas, a Mexican restaurant in Washington that Ms. Psaki said was a beneficiary of the Aid Fund’s pilot program. The restaurant increased from 55 employees before the pandemic to just seven, Mr Biden said.
The program has not yet distributed any funds outside of the limited pilot project.