Happy Cinco de Mayo! The holiday is not Mexican Independence Day (though many people think it is). It actually commemorates the triumph of the underdog (Mexico) in a battle with the all-powerful French Empire. Speaking of underdogs, small restaurants have been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Small Business Administration (SBA) just launched the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

Applications opened Monday and will remain open until the funds—a whopping $28.6 billion “in direct relief funds to restaurants and other hard-hit food establishments that have experienced economic distress and significant operational losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic”—run out.

When she announced the Fund, SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman acknowledged that “Restaurants are the core of our neighborhoods and propel economic activity on main streets across the nation. They are among the businesses that have been hardest hit and need support to survive this pandemic. We want restaurants to know that help is here.”

The program provides 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. Funds must be used for allowable expenses by March 11, 2023.

Restaurant owners can work with a point-of-sale vendor or visit the restaurant portal on the SBA website to apply.

For the first 21 days that the program is open, the SBA is prioritizing funding applications from businesses owned and controlled by women, veterans, and socially and economically- disadvantaged individuals. But all eligible applicants are encouraged to submit applications as soon as the portal opens. Following the 21 days, all eligible applications will be funded on a first-come, first-served basis.

The  Restaurant Revitalization Fund is part of the American Rescue Plan, which went into effect in March. Find out more about the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, also available in Spanish.

Restaurant stock photo by hedgehog94/Shutterstock