Blumenauer urges restaurants to seek federal aid now
U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer spent nine months securing billions in federal aid for struggling restaurants.
Now Blumenauer wants Oregon establishments, which include bars and taverns, to get their share of grants from the $28.6 billion that Congress approved as part of President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion pandemic recovery plan.
The registration portal for the grants is open online now. Applications will be accepted by the U.S. Small Business Administration starting at 9 a.m. Pacific Time on Monday, May 3.
Blumenauer says he expects the money to go fast — and that Oregon restaurant owners and operators who helped him come up with the program should share in it.
"We've taken this from coast to coast, generating support, and we were able to get this into the recovery package," the Oregon Democrat told reporters in a conference call on Friday, April 30.
"But now, it is important to be able to take advantage of it. In the first five hours of the registration process, more than 80,000 people registered — and that is for them to be able to apply Monday morning.
"It is absolutely imperative for those of you who want to participate that you register now and that you apply Monday. We think this is going to be handled on a first-come, first-served basis. We are confident that with this sort of demand, the $28.6 billion is not going to meet all of the national demand."
The agency website is restaurants.sba.gov. Blumenauer's office website is blumenauer.house.gov, and has a link to the agency website.
The minimum grant under the program is $1,000; maximum, $10 million to one business, and $5 million to a single location. National chains are not eligible. Amounts are reserved for small operations and for diverse ownerships. Restaurants must be open, temporarily closed, or operating under an approved bankruptcy reorganization plan. Permanently closed restaurants do not qualify.
Blumenauer said he is aware of problems SBA has had with other programs to aid businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. For the Paycheck Protection Program, it was the complexity of rules — participating businesses could have their initial loans forgiven if they complied with requirements that changed. For the independent venues program, it was the computer system itself.
"I think they learned from their past experience," he said. "We have been working with them for weeks now. We have designed this program so it is less cumbersome, more flexible and more direct than the Paycheck Protection Program. For restaurants, it is important to note this is a grant program — not a loan — where any legitimate restaurant expense is eligible for the grant."
Blumenauer proposed an initial $120 billion in aid last June. He said he is working with now-Senate Majority Chuck Schumer of New York, who worked with him on the original program, to secure another $100 billion, "a reasonable approximation of what the ultimate demand will be." But he said it will take time, and there is no guarantee there will be more money from Congress.
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