Updated Jul 14, 2021 - Food and Drink

Iowa restaurants get payout from federal relief fund

Illustration of a dollar sitting on a plate shaped like the state of Iowa.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Iowa restaurant owners got $122 million from a federal relief fund, but many are still waiting for their payday.

Driving the news: The U.S. Small Business Administration released numbers Monday showing how much funding its Restaurant Revitalization Fund doled out to individual businesses.

Why it matters: The fund — which launched in May as part of the American Rescue Plan of 2021 — is more flexible than the Paycheck Protection Program loans that were initially offered to restaurants and bars during the pandemic.

  • Grant funds can cover everything from wage increases to remodeling.

Of note: Early funds were reserved for businesses owned by people of color, women and veterans, but lawsuits stopped the SBA from distributing funds based on sex or race.

Chart: Axios Visuals; Data: SBA
Chart: Axios Visuals; Data: SBA

Zoom in: Bubba, a Southern-style restaurant downtown, received nearly $600K in funds. It's mostly women-owned, said managing partner Chris Diebel.

  • Funds will help with deferred maintenance costs like replacing the carpet. It'll also help increase worker wages to try and attract potential employees through the doors, Diebel said.

Yes, but: Funds were exhausted quickly and the majority of Iowa restaurant owners who applied for relief did not receive it, said Jessica Dunker, president of the Iowa Restaurant Association.

What's next: Congress is considering a $60 billion bill that would replenish the fund and provide money to all qualified applicants.

  • It has bipartisan support locally from Republican Sen. Joni Ernst and Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne.

Editor's note: Wednesday's chart included incorrect data regarding the grant money several Des Moines businesses received from the federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund. The chart has since been corrected above.


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