Wicker, Sinema, Fitzpatrick, Blumenauer Call for Release of Unobligated Funds from Restaurant Revitalization Fund
November 2, 2022
WASHINGTON – Yesterday, November 1, 2022, U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., sent a letter to Isabel Guzman, the Administrator of the Small Business Administration, urging for a release of all unobligated funds from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) no later than November 14, 2022.
The lawmakers wrote:
“As the Congressional leaders of the bipartisan, bicameral Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act (H.R. 3807/S. 2091), we are requesting today that the Small Business Administration promptly communicate to Congress its plan to release all unobligated funds from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) and continue its thorough retrieval efforts of any misallocated or fraudulently accepted funds.
“In July, a GAO report found that nearly $180 million in RRF dollars had not yet been disbursed. While the amount of outstanding and recaptured funds will not be able to provide support to every small business that requested relief, it is inexcusable for the SBA to not efficiently recover and dispense every single available dollar to help as many of our nation’s still struggling main street businesses.
“We look forward to continuing to work with Administrator Guzman and the Small Business Administration to ensure that all available funds can be leveraged by eligible food service businesses in these still difficult financial times.”
In addition to receiving bipartisan support, this letter is supported by the National Restaurant Association and the Independent Restaurant Coalition.
“It can’t be underestimated how impactful this money could be for small business restaurants that applied for the RRF. The pandemic hit restaurants harder than every other industry, and while most businesses had the chance to fully recover, restaurant operators are still fighting to keep their heads above water. We appreciate the efforts of Sens. Sinema and Wicker, and Reps. Blumenauer and Fitzpatrick to push the SBA to provide answers about the money remaining in the RRF accounts. We’ve been asking the same questions since July. It’s imperative that the SBA steps up with answers and moves quickly to distribute the remaining funds to restaurants with pending applications,” said Sean Kennedy, executive vice president for Public Affairs, National Restaurant Association.
“We are grateful to Representatives Fitzpatrick and Blumenauer and Senators Wicker and Sinema for their unwavering support for our industry. Nearly 200,000 small businesses applied for and did not receive a Restaurant Revitalization Fund grant last year. Distributing the remaining and recovered funds would be a ray of hope for many neighborhood restaurants and bars that have been on life support for more than two years. When restaurants close, our communities, local economies, and most of all, our workers lose jobs that provide unparalleled ladders of opportunity. Thank you to our champions in Washington, who have been working tirelessly to deliver real help to independent restaurants and bars nationwide,” said Erika Polmar, executive director at the Independent Restaurant Coalition.
Read the full text of the letter here and below:
We write today to respectfully request that the Small Business Administration (SBA) swiftly release its plan to release all unobligated funds from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) authorized under the American Rescue Plan Act (Pub. L. 117-2) to eligible applicants. It is vital that the agency prioritize this issue and provide relief to the nearly seven thousand applicants that were identified as grant awardees in 2021 but never received funding.
In July 2022, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report entitled Restaurant Revitalization Fund: Opportunities Exist to Improve Oversight that stated that as of June 2022, $180 million of RRF funds remained unobligated. As you are no doubt aware, approximately 177,000 restaurants that applied to the program did not receive grants.
We recognize that the balance of the unobligated RRF will not be able to provide support to every small business that requested relief, but it is inexcusable for the Small Business Administration to not dispense every single available dollar to help as many of our nation’s still struggling main street businesses.
Beyond releasing remaining available funds, the SBA must continue conducting thorough retrieval efforts to recapture funding given to ineligible applicants, accepted fraudulently, or otherwise able to be returned. Once recovered, these dollars must immediately be disbursed to those eligible businesses that have applied for and need these grants.
We request the SBA provide Congress with a detailed plan and timeline to distribute unobligated RRF funding as well as detailed information regarding the agency’s progress in retrieving misallocated funds and distributing those funds to eligible applicants no later than Monday, November 14, 2022.
Thank you for your ongoing attention to this matter. We appreciate the role the SBA has played for small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic and look forward to working with you to ensure that all available funds can be leveraged by eligible food service businesses in these still difficult financial times.