The Central Virginian: U.S. House Passes Spanberger-Backed Bill to Provide Grants to Restaurants & Small Businesses Still Facing Pandemic-Related Challenges

Apr 14, 2022
In the News

THE CENTRAL VIRGINIAN

The U.S. House of Representatives today voted to pass the Relief for Restaurants and other Hard Hit Small Businesses Act — which U.S. Representative Spanberger cosponsored — to provide grants to local restaurants, venues, and other businesses that are still struggling to recover from the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) was established under the American Rescue Plan, which Spanberger voted to pass and President Joe Biden signed into law in March 2021, and provided $28.6 billion to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to award as direct relief funds to U.S. restaurants and other hard-hit food establishments experiencing economic distress and operational losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the program received more than 278,000 eligible applications representing more than $72.2 billion in requested funds. Restaurant owners across Virginia applied for nearly $1.5 billion in grant funding, but only received $653 million in direct relief. The additional funding provided in the Relief for Restaurants and other Hard Hit Small Businesses Act would provide relief to local restaurants that were unable to access RRF due to funding shortages in the program.

“As Virginia contends with the long-lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have heard from many small businesses across our Commonwealth that recovery has proven far more difficult than imaginable. Many business owners in our district have had to close their doors over the last two years — and without further assistance, more may soon follow,” said Spanberger. “Last year, I was proud to vote in support of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund to help business owners tackle the hardships brought on by the pandemic. But I also know of many Virginia restaurant, brewery, store, hotel, salon, and venue owners who did not receive the funding they desperately needed and are still working to adjust, make up for the lack of funds, and survive. For nearly a year, I have been pushing for additional relief for our local businesses. And today, I proudly voted to move grant funding forward to help these Virginia businesses stay afloat.”

The House-passed legislation provides $42 billion to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, allowing the SBA to award additional grants to businesses that previously applied to the program. Additionally, the Relief for Restaurants and other Hard Hit Small Businesses Act would provide $13 billion to create a Hard Hit Industries Award Program, which will provide grants to small businesses across industries and sectors that were hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic but were not eligible for RRF or the Shuttered Venue Operators Program (SVOG).

The costs associated with these programs will be offset using funds seized or returned to the federal government from bad actors attempting to defraud the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), SVOG, or RRF. The SBA Office of the Inspector General, along with the Pandemic Response and Accountability Committee and the Department of Justice, has launched investigations into $78.1 billion in potentially fraudulent loans and grants to ineligible businesses. By increasing oversight and reclaiming fraudulent payments, Congress can provide this additional support to more small businesses that were intended to receive these grants in the first place.

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