N.J. restaurants seek a new round of aid as pandemic struggles continue

Published: Sep. 17, 2021

Ehren Ryan was one of the lucky ones.

His Common Lot restaurant in Millburn was one of the 3,086 New Jersey restaurants, bars and other eating establishments receiving a total of $913.5 million through the Small Business Administration’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

The money helped him retain staff and pay the bills even as business declined due to the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

But many others weren’t as fortunate. The restaurant fund ran out of money before another 4,706 New Jersey eating establishments could get federal aid.

Ryan said he’s hopeful there will be a new round of restaurant aid.

“To be honest, I think it would be great,” he said. “A lot of restaurants missed out.”

Legislation in Congress would add another $60 billion to the fund, which earlier provided $913.5 million to 3,086 New Jersey businesses through the Small Business Administration.

It comes at a time when restaurant employment dropped in August for the first time since December 2020, according to the industry’s trade group, the National Restaurant Association.

“The small gains that our industry has made toward financial security are in danger of being wiped out, dashing the hopes of communities, entrepreneurs, and consumers nationwide,” said Sean Kennedy, the restaurant group’s executive vice president of public affairs.

The restaurant fund was created under the same $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus law, passed over unanimous Republican opposition, that also gave $1,400 checks to many Americans.

Nationwide, 278,304 businesses sought $72.2 billion but there was only $28.6 billion available to help 101,004 eligible establishments.

“There’s a solid amount of unmet demand,” said Veronica Pugin, a senior adviser in the Small Business Administration’s Office of Capital Access. “There’s no doubt about it that small businesses valued the RRF program.”

So much demand that the legislation to renew the restaurant fund has attracted 15 sponsors in the Senate, including New Jersey’s Robert Menendez, and 219 in the House, including all 12 members from the Garden State.

For now, restaurants can take advantage of COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Applications are still being accepted until Dec. 31.

The loans carry 3.75% interest rates for small businesses and 2.75% for private nonprofits. They can be paid back over 30 years.

“You have small businesses asking, ‘What’s left?” Pugin said. This is what’s left, she said.

There also are grant programs of up to $15,000 for small businesses in low-income communities that have suffered significant losses due to the coronavirus.

These programs “have been lifelines for thousands and thousands of businesses,” Pugin said.

As the delta variant causes governments to restore mask mandates and Americans again curb indoor activities, more businesses are seeking help under the EIDL programs and the SBA has made it easier to apply and sped up processing of applications, she said.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-09-18 03:09:59 -0700