AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Texas Restaurant Association urges Congress to reopen the Restaurant Revitalization Fund after the program ran out of money and left more than 12,000 Texan business owners without the help they needed.
The TRA said the additional funding is needed now as restaurants shut down or even close for days on the third wave of COVID-19 cases.
“We closed the Peached bar, my downtown location, last Tuesday’s service,” said owner Eric Silverstein, who added that it was either closed for most of last week or had limited capacity in the restaurant due to a shortage of staff is.
“On Wednesday I literally got off the plane, left my luggage at my home, bathed my kids, and then went to work because I had to work to stay open that night,” said Silverstein.
At the same time, he said federal money from the restaurant revitalization fund is helping his other restaurant, The Peached Tortilla.
âThis money helps now because it gives us air to breathe. We could pay people; we can keep our entire management team that we brought back, âexplained Silverstein.
He said both companies were eligible for the RRF grant, but he received an email in late June from the Small Business Administration overseeing the program saying they had run out of money for the program.
The TRA said Bar Peached was one of more than 12,000 other qualified applicants from Texas who were not awarded RRF grants.
âThose 12,000 restaurants that did not receive funding were at various stages of this approval process,â says Kelsey Erickson Streufert. “Some had been fully approved, some had originally been approved pending verification of the backup information.”
Nearly 3,000 restaurant owners across the country have had their license revoked due to a lawsuit against the SBA’s priority groups for the RRF.
A local restaurant owner who chose to remain anonymous told KXAN that he belonged to one of those priority groups, whose request was approved and then revoked, and received the email statement below from the SBA.
âThe bottom line is less about who has priorities, who’s on the front line, who’s back in line, and more about meeting the needs of everyone who was queued and eligible … everyone should get funding that he has to count, âsaid Streufert.
She said the program served as a lifeline for those who received funds, and the Omicron variant again shows the need for help.
âIf anything, it got worse around the Christmas season because of the variant and its effects. We are therefore pleased that these talks are taking off, âsaid Streufert.
She said they are currently working with lawmakers and hope to have more information in the next month or two on whether and when the restaurant revitalization fund might reopen.
“What we are really saying to Congress and the public now is that please don’t forget us,” she said.
Silverstein said Bar Peached received the RRF grant just days before the SBA announced it was running out of money and said he knew others weren’t as lucky.
“I think the industry is going to keep changing and I think a lot of people are probably mentally exhausted,” he said.
In its email to Silverstein, the SBA said it will hold motions and process them when Congress allocates more money to the program.
Silverstein said he supported TRA’s call for more funding.
âIt’s honestly like we’re reliving part of what made 2020 so difficult, and we’re going to relive it in early 2022,â he said.