MURRAY – Local restaurants have a chance to receive assistance through a U.S. Small Business Administration program that opened up this week.
The Murray-Calloway County Chamber of Commerce said in a newsletter that the SBA’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) opened to applications on Monday. The RRF was established by the American Rescue Plan Act, and the online application will remain open to any eligible establishment until all funds are exhausted. The chamber encourages members to act quickly, and said SBA recommends qualifying applicants prepare by:
• reviewing the official guidance, including program guide, frequently asked questions and application sample at www.sba.gov/restaurants
• reaching out to your CPA with any questions or assistance needed
The chamber said that for the first 21 days that the program is open, SBA will prioritize funding applications from businesses owned and controlled by women, veterans, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. Following the 21 days, all eligible applications will be funded on a first-come, first-served basis.
“It’s a great opportunity for restaurants to take advantage of, and we had a couple of our members reaching out to us asking us early on about the program, so we tried to communicate through our emails to members about the process,” said Murray-Calloway Chamber President/CEO Michelle Bundren. “In our newsletter this week, we released that they have opened applications and the money is there until it runs out.”
Bundren said she had heard from several members that they had been in touch with their CPAs to prepare all the necessary documentation so they would be ready to submit their application as soon as the window opened on the SBA website.
Chris Wooldridge is the director of the Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Development, which is part of Murray State University’s Arthur J. Bauernfeind College of Business. He said the application process for the RRF is entirely online, but he has received a few calls from business owners asking about it.
“This is a program that came online, of course, to provide funding and assistance targeted toward the restaurant industry,” Wooldridge said. “The actual process itself has been fairly self-contained with SBA. The information they have provided is on their website, and they have a program guide (which is menu-driven and provides) informational assistance. It’s a program that SBA has managed quite tightly in terms of how applications are accepted and how they’re processed.”
Since the application process is self-contained on the SBA website, Wooldridge said his office has mostly provided clients with information on how to apply and details about the program. He said the SBA is working on the program with “SBA restaurant partners,” which should be familiar to most restaurant owners.
“These are the technology companies that restaurants are using to basically provide their payment systems’ software and hardware,” Wooldridge said. “We’re talking about companies like Oracle, Square, NCR, Clover – some of those programs that are utilized by restaurants in processing payments and putting the software or hardware tools in those restaurants. So they can apply with any of those technology companies, but I would caveat that by saying that the restaurant owner needs to go to the website to get the information because that’s really how SBA is pushing all this out, basically to make sure everyone has the same amount of information. Any changes that are made are immediately reflected on the website.”
In addition to applying through a payment system company with which the restaurant owner may already be familiar, Wooldridge said they can also apply through a phone call to the SBA. Depending on the applicants’ degree of comfort, there is always potential for difficulty in any grant application process, but Wooldridge said he has heard that the RRF process is not harder than last year’s process to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program or the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. The good news is that many restaurants have already dealt with the PPP or EIDL, so Wooldridge said they should hopefully find the process to be easier, which he said would likely explain why he hasn’t been asked to assist many local businesses with the applications so far.
Wooldridge added that restaurants are still eligible for the RRF even if they received assistance from the PPP or EIDL. According to the SBA, the amount for which restaurants are eligible to receive is calculated based on gross receipts, any previously awarded PPP loan amounts and certain expense amounts. Wooldridge said he has suggested to several restaurants with larger or more complicated financial structures that they work with their accountants on the application.
“The minimal amount that a restaurant can apply for is $1,000,” Wooldridge said. “The maximum is $5 million per location, not to exceed $10 million. So that’s a pretty large range. Depending on what funding they’ve received from SBA or are requesting from SBA, that could change how that calculation is made. So if they’re eligible for a certain amount of money but they’ve already applied for a percentage of that money through one of the other programs, then that has to be adjusted.”
Wooldridge said he is encouraging any restaurant owner who thinks they might be eligible to go ahead and apply and see what happens.
“The SBA funding has been put out there for the period of time from February 2020 (to the present), so I would encourage businesses to not suffer and to apply for those funding dollars if they truly need those,” he said. “That’s what the money is for, and SBA has made that money available through the appropriation of Congress, so I would encourage them to do that if they need it for their business and reach out to us if they have any questions at all. That’s what we’re here to do – to help them and get them through this period of time.”