U.S. Readies Small-Business Grants as P.P.P. Nears End

New programs for restaurants and live-event businesses will soon start taking applications as the Paycheck Protection Program winds down.

By Stacy Cowley

The federal government is preparing to open two new industry-specific small-business relief programs, one of them months in the works, as its signature pandemic aid effort, the Paycheck Protection Program, nears its end.

The Small Business Administration said it hopes to start taking applications by the end of this week for a $16 billion grant fund for live-event businesses like theaters and music clubs. The program, the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, was supposed to begin nearly two weeks ago, but its application system malfunctioned and collapsed, stymieing thousands of desperate businesses that have been waiting months for the promised aid.

On Saturday, the agency posted additional details on its forthcoming Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a $28.6 billion support program for bars, restaurants and food trucks whose sales were devastated by the shutdowns that states imposed in response to the pandemic. The fund was created as part of last month’s $1.9 trillion economic support package. Within the next two weeks, it will begin a seven-day test intended to help the agency avoid the kind of technical fiasco that plagued the venue program.

The agency has not announced a specific start date for either grant program.

“Help is here,” Isabella Casillas Guzman, the agency’s administrator, said of the restaurant program. “We’re rolling out this program to make sure that these businesses can meet payroll, purchase supplies and get what they need in place to transition to today’s Covid-restricted marketplace.”

Both programs offer recipients grants of up to $10 million to replace a portion of their lost sales. But both programs — which will distribute money on a first-come-first-served basis, subject to some priority rules — are expected to run out of money quickly. The money in the restaurant fund, in particular, falls far short of its needs, agency officials have acknowledged.

“Everyone should apply on Day 1,” Patrick Kelley, the head of the agency’s Office of Capital Access, told attendees at a webinar last week organized by the Independent Restaurant Coalition. Lawmakers projected at least $120 billion in demand for the restaurant fund, Mr. Kelley said, but provided money for less than a quarter of that amount.

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