SALEM — On the same day Gov. Kate Brown shut down indoor dining in 15 Oregon counties, Rep. Earl Blumenauer urged restaurants, bars, food trucks, tasting rooms, catering companies and other food service business owners to apply for their share of $28.6 billion in federal relief grants.

Privately owned food businesses with fewer than 20 locations are eligible to apply for up $10 million in funding made available through the American Rescue Plan. Registration is already open at the Small Business Association website. Applications can be submitted starting at 9 a.m. on Monday, May 3 for the program.

“In the first five hours, more than 80,000 people have registered, and this is just so they can apply (May 3),” Blumenauer said in a Zoom call with reporters Friday, April 30. “It is imperative that those of you who want to participate register now and apply on (May 3).”

According to Blumenauer, whose original Restaurants Act legislation called for $120 billion in funding, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said he is willing to work with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to inject more money into the program.

“I still think that’s the target number, and I’m drafting legislation for an additional $100 billion, which is reasonable for what national demand would be,” Blumenauer said. “But that’s going to take time. We need to make sure that you act now. The sooner you apply, the sooner money will be available.”

“What people do now will determine how much money comes back to Oregon for people who desperately need it.”

The American Rescue Act, which passed in March, incorporated a slimmed down version of Blumenauer’s restaurant act to help food businesses survive the economic downturns imposed by state-imposed restrictions on dining designed to curb the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will provide eligible businesses with funding equal to their revenue loss of up to $5 million per location, and $10 million total.

Unlike earlier Paycheck Protection Program loans, which restaurant owners found onerous to apply for and use, recipients are not required to repay the funds so long as they are used for legitimate expenses before March 11, 2023. Those expenses included everything from rent to mortgage payment to insurance to the construction of outdoor seating.

Businesses can apply through the Small Business Administration or through various point of sale companies, including Square, Clover and Toast. A sample application can be found here.

The first 21 days of the program are dedicated to “priority” businesses, defined as businesses that are at least 51% owned by women, veterans or people who are socially and economically disadvantaged. The program includes various set asides worth around $10 billion total for smaller businesses with 2019 revenue under $1.5 million, $500,000 or even $50,000.

While the application process doesn’t open until 9 a.m. May 3, Blumenauer encourages Oregon restaurants to do the following:

  • Register for an account at restaurants.sba.gov starting Friday, April 30, 2021.
  • Review the grant program’s official guidance, including the program guide, frequently asked questions, and application sample.
  • Prepare the required documentation.

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