(The Center Square) – Beginning this week, certain Virginia business owners are eligible for revitalization fund grants to help offset losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic restrictions.
The Restaurant Revitalization Fund Grant will provide eligible businesses with money equal to their losses caused by the pandemic. The fund has $28.6 billion in federal money for businesses throughout the country and is administered by the Small Business Administration. Some of the businesses eligible to receive funding include restaurants, bars, caterers and inns.
Applications will be available until the fund is empty.
In the first 21 days of the program, priority will be given to applications from women, veterans and socially and economically disadvantaged applicants, but others can still file their applications. The fund reserves $9.5 billion for small businesses.
Some business associations have spoken favorably of the fund. The Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association urged business owners to send in their applications as soon as possible.
“The Restaurant Revitalization Fund will have an immediate impact on Virginia’s hardest hit restaurants and bars and will help boost the recovery of our local economies,” Eric Terry, the association’s president, said in a statement. “We’ve been working with the National Restaurant Association and SBA to educate local owners, and we expect application numbers on the first day will be through the roof. The need for these grants is still very high and it’s likely the $28.6 billion will be depleted quickly.”
According to the association, restaurants have been the hardest hit by the pandemic. Nationally, food service sales are $280 billion below expectations and the industry has 1.7 million fewer jobs, which is a 15% decrease. More than 90,000 restaurants will be closed for a long time or permanently.
In the commonwealth, 81% of restaurants reported lower volume, 89% reported lower profit margins and 84% reported lower staffing.
Gov. Ralph Northam has reduced the level of restrictions on businesses, but some rules still remain in place that are stricter than other states. Tables must still be six feet apart and face coverings must be worn when walking. The governor recently ended the bar seating prohibition and will end the midnight curfew on dining in two weeks from now.
Virginia has still maintained indoor and outdoor social gathering limits, but recently increased capacity for most venues. A person is still required to wear a face mask while alone or in a small gathering outdoors, unless that person has been fully vaccinated for two weeks. All people, including those who are vaccinated, must wear masks at indoor public locations and gatherings.