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The Raleigh restaurant owner spoke to US senators on Wednesday afternoon about the importance of helping establishments devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions and rising inflation.

Garland restaurant owner Cheetie Kumar has spoken about how important she thinks it is to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF).

“I would be remiss to testify before this committee and not advocate for this fund to be filled to take care of the 177,000 restaurants that applied and did not receive a grant,” Kumar wrote in a prepared statement. “They desperately need help, and Congress could ensure the success of a generation of independent restaurants by providing the money to fund all outstanding grant applications.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Kumar spoke before the US Senate Committee on Small Business. Three other people spoke to the committee, including Virginia-based restaurant owner Jason Lam, MForesight executive director Dr. Sridhar Kota, and Hermitage Foundation researcher Joel Griffith.

“Injecting money into the challenges we face like the RFF is like putting a bandage on a wound that needs stitches,” Lam said. “It will stop the bleeding, but it won’t solve the problem. You will still end up bleeding.

Lam said he did not apply for the RFF.

“Spending billions of taxpayer dollars is not the answer,” Lam told senators. “Giving subsidies to these restaurants is not the solution.

“I want you to look my kids in the face and tell them they won’t be responsible for paying this back. They will.”

Lam said he needed help from the federal government with supply chain issues.

Specifically, Kumar thanked the committee and Senator Ben Cardin, D-Maryland.

“You gave us a lifeline to survive in the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) and we are forever grateful,” Kumar wrote.

The American Rescue Plan Act created the RRF to provide funds to help restaurants and other eligible businesses keep their doors open. The program provided restaurants with funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss up to $10 million per business and no more than $5 million per physical location.

Cardin said more than 100,000 restaurants have received RFF funding.

RFF recipients are not required to repay the funding if it meets the list of permitted uses of funds, which includes:

  • Company personnel costs (including sick leave)
  • Payments on any commercial mortgage obligation
  • Business rent payments (this does not include prepayment of rent)
  • Service of the company’s debt, both principal and interest (this does not include any prepayment of principal or interest)
  • Corporate utility payments
  • Business maintenance expenses
  • Construction of outdoor benches
  • Professional supplies (including protective equipment and cleaning products)
  • Professional food and beverage expenses (including raw materials)
  • Supplier costs covered
  • Business operating expenses

Restaurants that have received funding must use it by March 11, 2023.

Governor Roy Cooper

“Many of my friends and colleagues are hanging by a thread and have taken on crushing personal debt as they struggle not to join the growing list of shutdowns,” Kumar wrote.

Kumar said more than 80% of restaurants that did not get the subsidy say they are on the verge of closing.

Capital Club 16 owner and leader Jake Wolf did not receive the RFF.

“It was really big because we were really counting on it moving forward to help drive up labor costs and food costs,” Wolf said.

Wolf said the federal funding would have helped his business, especially with rising food preparation costs.

“We’re struggling to get some of the food for our menus,” Wolf said.

Kumar said Garland is adapting to supply chain issues every day.

“We are looking for less expensive cuts of meat with great flavor and potential to be featured in dishes,” Kumar said.

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