RALEIGH, North Carolina (WNCN) – Only about 40 percent of North Carolina restaurants that requested money from a federal program designed to help them received it before it ran out of money.
About 6,600 restaurants across the state have requested a total of $ 1.6 billion from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, said Lynn Minges, president and CEO of the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association.
But funds totaling $ 645 million went to just over 2,500 restaurants across the state before the program was challenged in a lawsuit and ultimately depleted funds.
“There just isn’t enough money,” Minges said.
Under the $ 28.6 billion program, which was part of the Biden administration’s $ 1.9 trillion relief program, restaurants and bars could benefit from grants of up to $ 10 million per company and $ 5 million per location to match the losses they suffered due to the pandemic.
The average grant in North Carolina was $ 251,000, and 40 percent of the money distributed in the state went to just 6 percent of the recipients.
The vast majority – over $ 557 million – of funds did not have a specific deductible. Of those who did, Golden Corrals was the top recipient with a total of over $ 37 million.
Two of them – in Huntersville and Winston-Salem – each received the maximum of $ 10 million.
The smallest grant – $ 1,047.28 – went to an independent food truck operator in Charlotte.
For the companies that received the money, the program was successful, Minges said.
There just weren’t enough of them.
“This fund brought immediate relief to the restaurants that received it,” Minges said. “It was a great program for those who received the funds. What concerns us now are those who have applied and are eligible, but there just isn’t enough money for everyone. “
Priority of the program was given to restaurants and bars owned by women and minorities.
But about 3,000 of them across the country – including Kim Hammer, who owns a dessert shop and bar in Raleigh – ended up having their payments canceled.
Hammer said she was approved for a six-figure grant she would use to hire more employees at Bittersweet in downtown Raleigh.
Then came a notification that she called the “death email”.
He said his grant would not come after three white business owners sued the Small Business Administration in Texas and Tennessee. They said they were discriminated against because the program prioritized other groups.
A Texas federal judge issued an injunction in May preventing the agency from distributing money to priority candidates – like Hammer – who had been approved but had not yet received anything. But the SBA could distribute money to applicants who weren’t a priority.
The SBA then closed the fund in late June after running out of money.
“It felt like it took another level, that it was just abuse at this point,” Hammer said.
In North Carolina, about a third of loans went to women-owned businesses. A third of the beneficiaries declared to be socially or economically disadvantaged. And 21 percent had low to moderate incomes.
“They should all be higher,” Minges said. “There are so many people who are suffering. “
Minges says his organization is pushing Congress for additional funding of $ 60 billion. She said lawmakers could reallocate some federal funds that had been earmarked for other relief projects.
“They are not used in other areas. And there might be a way to reallocate those funds, ”Minges said. “And that would be an immediate way for them to get money into the fund without having to allocate or appropriate additional income.”