Texas restaurants ask for more grants

AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Texas Restaurant Association calls on Congress to reopen the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, after the program ran out of money and left more than 12,000 Texas business owners without the help they need .

The TRA said additional funding is needed now, as the third wave of COVID-19 cases has restaurants downsizing their operations or even closing for days.

“We closed the Peached Bar, my downtown location, serving last Tuesday,” said owner Eric Silverstein, who added that he had closed or limited the restaurant’s capacity most of the last week because it is understaffed.

“On Wednesday I literally got off the plane, dropped off my bags at home, gave my kids a bath, then went to work, because I needed to work so I could stay open this that night, ”Silverstein said.

At the same time, he said federal money from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund was helping his other restaurant, The Peached Tortilla.

“This money is helping now because it gives us leeway. We could pay people; we can keep our entire management team, which we brought back, ”explained Silverstein.

He said both companies were eligible for the RRF grant, but received an email from the Small Business Administration, which oversees the program, at the end of June, saying they were out of money for the program.

Eric Silverstein said he received this email from the SBA in June warning them that the agency could not provide funding to all qualified applicants because they were strapped for cash. (Courtesy of Eric Silverstein)

The TRA said Bar Peached is one of more than 12,000 other qualified Texas applicants who have not received RRF grants.

“Those 12,000 restaurants that did not receive any funding were at all kinds of different stages in this approval process,” said Kelsey Erickson Streufert. “Some had been fully approved, some had been sort of initially approved pending, you know, the review of the backup information.”

Nearly 3,000 restaurant owners nationwide have had their approvals revoked due to a lawsuit against the SBA’s priority groups for the RRF.

A local restaurant owner who asked to remain anonymous told KXAN that he was one of those priority groups whose request was approved, then revoked, and received the below explanation via e- mail from the SBA.

“The bottom line is really less about who’s priority, who’s on the front line, who’s behind the line, and more about meeting the needs of everyone who was in the queue who was eligible… they should each get the funding they were counting on, ”Streufert said.

She said the program served as a lifeline for those who got funding, and the omicron variant once again underscores the need for help.

“If anything, it got worse because of the variant and its impact right around the holiday season. We are therefore delighted that these conversations are resuming, ”said Streufert.

She said they are currently working with lawmakers and hope to have more information in the coming months on if and when the Restaurant Revitalization Fund may reopen.

“What we’re really saying to Congress and the public right now is don’t forget about ourselves,” she said.

Silverstein said Bar Peached got the RRF grant just days before the SBA announced it was out of money and said he knew the others weren’t so lucky .

“I think the industry is about to change more, and I think a lot of people are probably at their end of the line mentally,” he said.

In its email to Silverstein, the SBA said it was keeping the nominations and would process them if Congress allocated more money to the program.

Silverstein said he supported TRA’s call for more funding.

“It’s honestly like we’re reliving some of what made 2020 so difficult, and we’re reliving it in early 2022,” he said.

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