WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Joe Biden delivered remarks on his $28.6B restaurant relief program which is part of his recently passed American Rescue Plan.
The White House said that 186,200 restaurants, bars and other eligible businesses had applied for the program over its first two days of accepting applications. More than half of the applicants are owned by women, veterans or people from historically disadvantaged backgrounds.
The aid for eateries was part of the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan. Biden signed the sweeping $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package into law nearly two months ago.
Under the Biden relief program, which started accepting applications on Monday, restaurants and bars can qualify for grants equal to their pandemic-related revenue losses, with a cap of $10 million per business and $5 million per location.
Biden set foot in a restaurant for his first time as president earlier in the day Wednesday visiting Taqueria Las Gemelas in Washington. The restaurant, owned in part by Mexican immigrants, was a beneficiary of a pilot version of the restaurant relief program. It went from 55 employees to seven during the pandemic, though it was able to rehire some workers through the Paycheck Protection Program that predates the Biden administration.
The coronavirus outbreak was especially brutal for restaurants. America lost nearly 2,700 dining establishments through last summer, according to the Labor Department. About 1.8 million food service jobs also have been lost, though the sector has been gradually returning jobs since last May.
The program has set aside $9.5 billion for the smallest restaurants and bars, and a third of the applications were filed by businesses with annual pre-pandemic revenues of less than $500,000. For the program’s first 21 days, applications from women, veterans and socially and economically disadvantaged people will have priority for being reviewed and funded.
One of the largest stimulus measures in history, the package also provided $400 billion in direct payments of $1,400 per person, extended emergency unemployment benefits, and vast piles of spending for COVID-19 vaccines and testing.
GOP House members unanimously opposed the American Rescue Plan, which they characterized as bloated, crammed with liberal policies and heedless of signs the dual crises are easing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.