Jacksonville restaurant hopes to benefit from restaurant relief program

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The White House says that 186,200 restaurants, bars and other eligible businesses have applied for the program over its first two days of accepting applications through its restaurant relief program.

The $28.6 billion program is designed to help restaurants that lost business due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Rebecca Winchester is the owner of Toscana Little Italy, a restaurant in Jacksonville’s Miramar neighborhood. She and her husband purchased the restaurant back in September 2019.

Little did she know that in six months, a pandemic was going to put a strain on her business.

“It’s been devastating, but we are rolling back,” Winchester said. “We see every month it tick up a little bit more.”

Winchester is currently in the process of applying for the newly launched Restaurant Revitalization Fund. She’s already been through two Paycheck Protection Program applications to keep her business afloat.

“It’s been a little easier this time, but it’s still a difficult process to navigate, especially if you don’t have people to help you to get though that,” Winchester said. “Sometimes it’s hard to do all that paperwork when you’re trying to run a business and keep it afloat.”

To be eligible for the relief money, business owner have to prove at least 33% of their sales come from food and beverages. Restaurant and bar owners will also have to provide tax returns to prove their business has been loosing money since 2019.

Under the relief program, which started accepting applications on Monday, restaurants and bars can qualify for grants equal to their pandemic-related revenue losses, with a cap of $10 million per business and $5 million per location.

“We’re pretty much waiting to see how much we will qualify for and when that fund will become available,” Winchester said.

The program has set aside $9.5 billion for the smallest restaurants and bars, and a third of the applications were filed by businesses with annual pre-pandemic revenues of less than $500,000. For the program’s first 21 days, applications from women, veterans and socially and economically disadvantaged people will have priority for being reviewed and funded.

More than half of the 186,000 businesses that have applied are owned by women, veterans or people from historically disadvantaged backgrounds. The aid for eateries was part of the Biden administration’s broader $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

Business owners seeking to apply for the program can receive more information at sba.gov/restaurants.

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