Millions went to food businesses in Forest Hills as part of the $28.6 billion federal relief fund for eateries, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF).
The RRF is run by the Small Business Administration (SBA), and has been supplying grants to food businesses from May 3 to July 14.
However, critics argue that the program was significantly underfunded. About 370,000 businesses nationwide applied for $75 billion. Less than one-third (roughly 105,000 out of the 370,000) of the applicants were approved.
In New York alone, more than 27,000 businesses applied for $9.63 billion. However, only one-third (9,800 out of the 27,000) were able to be funded.
As the SBA initially stated in a press release, the RRF is primarily focused on supporting “socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, as well as women and veterans.”
Businesses that qualified as disadvantaged were able to receive approvals for their applications three weeks ahead of businesses that didn’t. Those who didn’t qualify could still apply at the same time, but their applications wouldn’t be processed or prioritized.
In response, some restaurant owners sued, claiming that they were being discriminated against. Eventually, the SBA was forced to alter the plan after several judges sided with the business that sued.
Following the lawsuits the SBA had to freeze or revoke payments for about 3,000 applicants who had already been notified about their application approval.
The SBA commented that although they can’t speak on the specifics of the litigation, they will continue to help small businesses. According to SBA data, (in total) 34% of the funds were granted to businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, 44% went to businesses owned by women, and 5.7% to veteran-owned businesses.
Independent businesses are eligible to receive up to $5 million, whereas restaurant groups are eligible for up to $10 million. Some of these already well-funded restaurant groups are being granted millions.
A great number of businesses in Forest Hills, both large and small, received grants.
The average grant for Forest Hills’ food businesses was $203,705, with the individual grants ranging from approximately $2,900 to $1.2 million. Dee’s Italian restaurant (107-23 Metropolitan Avenue) received Forest Hills’ biggest grant, roughly $1.2 million.
The grants can be used for payroll costs, sick leave, business mortgage, business rent payments, business debt service, business utility and maintenance payments, construction for outdoor seating, business supplies, and business food and beverage expenses.
Regrettably, there are still hundreds of thousands of food businesses that have been denied needed money. Congress is currently considering refunding the RRF, introducing the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act of 2021. This would give the RRF a $60 billion replenishment and afford rejected restaurants another chance at funding.