Federal lawmakers push to replenish Restaurant Revitalization Fund to serve all who applied

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Federal lawmakers from New York are trying to extend a program for restaurant owners impacted by pandemic shutdowns.

The push for more funding comes after a News10NBC Investigation that showed how some women and minority-owned businesses who were promised the federal grants, ultimately got left out.

A few weeks ago, some of those businesses started getting cancellation notices after having previously been told their applications for the Restaurant Revitalization Program were approved. Long story short, the feds tried to give them priority access to the grant program but a court determined the use of race and sex-based preference violated the constitution.

Michele Yancy started The Meatball Trucks when she and her family bought Antonetta’s Restaurant seven years ago. COVID-19 devastated the business so when the federal government opened the Restaurant Revitalization Fund on May 5, she applied. She was approved two weeks later but when the money didn’t arrive by the middle of June, she called News10NBC.

“I don’t know if people realize the ramifications here where you’re told you have the funding, you’ve already spent a year and a half in limbo, completely devastated losing 75% of your business. You’re told you have the funding, you start to try to hire people, you start to book jobs, you start to try to bring people back that were working for you before and all of a sudden it is just yanked out from under you,” she said.

Yancy was one of the unlucky ones.

“We actually did manage to get a lot of that funding out before that (law) suit,” said Restaurateur Tom Colicchio, who also runs the Independent Restaurant Collation.

The federal lawsuit halted payments to owners who had been granted priority just before the money to fund the program ran out, “the restaurant revitalization fund is doing everything it was intended to do but we need more, right now the estimates are that $60 billion will cover all the applicants that are currently in process,” Colicchio said.

$60 billion is actually double the amount of funding that was offered the first time around but it would take care of Yancy’s problem and other businesses who had their grants halted at the last minute.

“They are first in line… they’ve already been approved and so they’re waiting to get their funding, they’ll be first in line,” Gillibrand said.

Senator Gillibrand is one of a number of bi-partisan sponsors of the bill that would allocate another $60 billion to the fund.

If the money is approved, it would only be enough to fund applications that have already been submitted. The program won’t re-open. A total of 362,000 restaurants applied for the cash, only about one-third of them were funded before the money ran out. Roughly 9,700 of those restaurants were in New York where a total of $3.7 billion was allocated. About 220 businesses in Rochester were awarded grants, the Golden Corral on Jefferson Road received the most, $2.8 million.