There's Not Enough Money in the Restaurant Revitalization Fund

    Some 266,000 applicants have already requested $65 billion in aid.

    Finance | May 13, 2021 | Danny Klein
    Interior of an empty restaurant.
    Unsplash/Boris Dunand
    The National Restaurant Association started a petition.

    Concern over if the Restaurant Revitalization Fund will run out of money appears a matter of if, not when. The SBA announced Wednesday it’s received more than 147,000 applications from women, veterans, and socially and economically disadvantaged business owners, requesting a total of $29 billion in relief funds. For perspective, this is just the pool given priority for the first 21 days of the program.

    And the RRF has $28.6 billion designated for the entire rollout.

    Overall, the RRF program has received more than 266,000 total applications asking for north of $65 billion in aid. Nearly half of that came from the early group.

    During the first week, the SBA received applications from:

    • 76,183 women business owners
    • 6,093 veteran business owners
    • 42,284 economically and socially disadvantaged individuals


    In addition to $5 billion set aside by Congress for applicants with gross receipts no higher than $500,000, the SBA created two additional funding allocations to ensure smaller restaurants and other establishments, like food trucks and carts, don’t get left out.

    One, $500 million for applicants with 2019 gross receipts less than $50,000, and two, $4 billion for applicants with 2019 gross receipts between $500,000 and $1,500,000.


    How to Apply for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund

    The Restaurant Revitalization Fund is Off to a Busy Start

    So far, after weeks of targeted outreach that included 600 local and national informational events, the SBA said, it’s received:

    • 13,114 applications from businesses with under $50,000 in pre-pandemic revenue requesting $330 million in funds
    • 100,410 applications from businesses with under $500,000 in annual pre-pandemic revenue requesting $8.14 billion in funds
    • 61,535 applicants from businesses with $500,000–$1.5 million in annual pre-pandemic revenue requesting $15.1 billion in fund


    As you can see, the program is bursting. Since the May 3 opening date, a total of $2.7 billion of relief funds have been distributed to 21,000 restaurants.

    There’s plenty of money to still be doled out, and the queue is long.

    “The numbers show that we’ve been particularly successful at reaching the smallest restaurants and underserved communities that have struggled to access relief,” said Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman, head of the SBA. “These businesses are the pillars of our nation’s neighborhoods and communities. We are making progress, but we have much more work to do as we continue reaching our underserved entrepreneurs.”

    Because the SBA still has potential funding available for eligible establishments with 2019 annual revenue of not more than $50,000, it said it will keep the application portal open.

    Sean Kennedy, EVP of Public Affairs at the National Restaurant Association, said they appreciate the work the SBA is doing to get funds out, and get them out quickly. However, “because of that hard work we now have a clear picture of how much need there is for this funding."

    “Right now, SBA has more than $36 billion in applications from small, struggling independent businesses that will not receive funding, so we continue to urge policymakers in Washington—from the White House to Capitol Hill—to replenish the RRF to maximize relief for small independent and franchise restaurant operators. Americans can’t wait to get back into their favorite restaurant with their family and friends, and the federal government can play a key role in making that a reality.”

    The Association unveiled a grassroots petition Wednesday to policy leaders from the White House urging congress to add funds to the RRF. You can view that here.

    As it points out, in the first 36 hours, more than 186,000 applications were submitted, and the first 16,000 applications were funded with $2 billion. At this rate, the SBA will run out after the first two days of applications.

    “And that means hundreds of thousands of restaurants, bars, food trucks, and everything in between will be left waiting,” the Association said.