Cantwell Pushes for Answers on Timeline for Restaurant Grant Assistance: “Restaurants Who’ve Been Hanging On, They Need to Know”

American Rescue Plan signed into law earlier this month contained $28.6 billion for grant program for hard-hit restaurants nationwide

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As more than 2,300 restaurants throughout the State of Washington have closed their doors and thousands more are struggling from the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) pressed representatives from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) on how long it will take them to get critical financial assistance, passed as part of the American Rescue Plan, to restaurants throughout the country.

“I want to go back to the Restaurant Revitalization Grant program. Restaurants across the United States have been really impacted. More than 2,300 have closed in my state since the pandemic. Famous chefs like Tom Douglas, who’s a James Beard award winning chef, helped really make Seattle a destination with many restaurants—he’s gone from 850 employees down to 65. As of March, only three of his 13 restaurants are still open. We have Tony Brown in Spokane, he’s been featured on the Food Network. He went from 44 employees down to 11 employees and lost a majority of his revenue. This is a story throughout the state of Washington,” Cantwell said.

In her remarks, Cantwell pushed SBA to get the application and platform set up to get assistance for restaurants and live venues out as quickly as possible.

“What I really want to get down to is the brass tacks here. Are we talking weeks, are we talking a month, are we talking, you know by April 15th? What are we talking?”

Cantwell also highlighted the importance of making sure restaurants struggling to make ends meet understand when they will be able to apply and receive funds from the program:

“Restaurants who’ve been hanging on, they need to know. They need to know when they will be able to apply and when do you think you’ll get the money out the door,” Cantwell said. “They’ve been in the queue for a long long time, so they need to know this information.”

“We need to be more successful at figuring out how to get these things set up quickly and out the door, albeit yes, making sure the right people are applying… We’re just trying to tell people who are holding on, restaurants who are holding on or who are trying to figure this out, what their time frame really looks like before they might see financial help.”

Senator Cantwell has been a strong advocate for getting COVID-19 assistance to restaurants and live venues. Earlier this month, she spoke on the Senate floor and urged her colleagues to pass the American Rescue Plan to get assistance out the door as quickly as possible. In December, she spoke at a Commerce subcommittee hearing about the importance of delivering relief for live entertainment venues. She has also fought for funding for restaurants and live venues in other COVID-19 relief packages.

Video from Senator Cantwell’s Q&A with the witnesses is available HERE, audio is HERE, and a transcript is available HERE.