By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published Mar 25, 2021 at 11:03 AM

On March 11, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package) into law, implementing one of the largest stimulus measures in U.S. history. The package includes $1400 stimulus checks for individuals, but also $28.6 billion in grant funding for restaurants  in the form of the Restaurants Revitalization Fund.

The grant program, which will be run by the Small Business Administration (SBA), was modeled after the Restaurants Act, a measure initially proposed in April of 2020 through the grassroots efforts of the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC).

Milwaukee Chef Daniel Jacobs of Dandan and Fool’s Errand got involved with the IRC’s work early on, bolstering local efforts by gathering with other independent restaurants to form the Milwaukee Independent Restaurant Coalition (MIRC).

“We got together last March to fight for ourselves,” says Jacobs, “Because there was no one who was going to fight for us, for the small guys. And, even moreso, there was no one that was going to fight for the small businesses owned by women and people of color.”

Currently, Jacobs says that the IRC is working closely with the White House and SBA on processes related to the Restaurants Revitalization Fund, particularly ensuring that funds are made available to restaurants in a timely manner. 

Jacobs says it’s a goal to provide resources to operators so they can navigate the opaque processes needed to access their portion of the $28.6 billion in grant funding once it becomes available.

What operators can do right now

The SBA is expected to launch the grant application program soon (potentially as soon as early to mid-April). But currently there are numerous pre-application steps that restaurants need to complete to be eligible.

“The IRC has been working hard to get the SBA to simplify the grant application process and remove the barriers that make it cumbersome,” says Jacobs. “In the meantime, I highly suggest that operators complete the preliminary steps that are currently required as soon as possible.”

Here are the steps restaurant owners can complete right now to give them a leg up on the forthcoming application process.

  1. Access grant-related resources. Saverestaurants.com provides information, available in a numerous languages, including a guide to acquiring a DUNS number (Data Universal Numbering System) and registering for SAM (System for Award Management), two steps that can be completed right now. NOTE: Operators are encouraged to complete both of these steps as soon as possible, since it can take up to two weeks to be approved.

  2. Register for an upcoming IRC round table. Upcoming dates include Wednesday, March 31 or April 7 at 10 a.m. CST or Tuesday, April 6 at 11 a.m. CST. The 60-minute Zoom calls  will cover how the legislation could impact your business and how you can prepare to apply for funding.

  3. Sign up for updates from the IRC or MIRC; both organizations are supplying regular updates on grant funding to their constituents. [Join IRC here] [Join MIRC here]

Useful tips and information

Jacobs, who says he has completed the registration process for both of his restaurants, says there are a number of things operators should know as they navigate the process.

  • Most restaurants and bars will qualify for grants. If you operate less than 20 restaurants and lost revenue in 2020 (versus 2019) you are more than likely eligible to apply for a grant. The American Rescue Plan Act explicitly names the following types of establishments that should be eligible: “restaurant, food stand, food truck, food cart, caterer, saloon, inn, tavern, bar, lounge, brewpub, tasting room, taproom, licensed facility or premise of a beverage alcohol producer where the public may taste, sample, or purchase products.”
     
  • Application information must be entered exactly the same for DUNS and SAM. Both the DUNS and SAM registration must be identical for each business (right down to punctuation) in order to be accepted. Jacobs suggests taking a screenshot of your completed DUNS application and using the information to fill out the SAM registration to make sure the data is entered exactly the same way.
     
  • Grant funding cannot be used in combination with PPP. “You can’t use government money for the same thing twice,” says Jacobs, “So if you are currently using PPP for salaries through June, you can’t use the new grant funding to pay those same salaries until the PPP funds run out. In short, use your PPP funds up first. ” 
    RRF grants can be used to fund eligible expenses including: salaries, mortgage (no prepayment), rent (no prepayment), utilities, maintenance, supplies (including protective equipment and cleaning materials), food and operational expenses.
     
  • Women-owned businesses get first dibs. During the first 21 days of the grant program, the SBA has been directed to prioritize applications from restaurants owned, operated or controlled by women. Veterans and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals will also be prioritized.
     
  • All RRF grant funds must be used by 12/31/21. If they are not used, they must be returned.
Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.