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Restaurants, small businesses stand to benefit from federal aid

519 in Greenville prepares to reopen Friday.
519 in Greenville prepares to reopen Friday.(Amber Lake)
Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 10:41 AM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The passage of the ‘American Rescue Plan’ has national implications but could have consequences in our two-state region.

The package sets aside $28.6 billion for restaurants in the form of grants. Each grant will provide up to $10 million per restaurant business with a limit of $5 million per location.

The owner and chef of West Columbia’s Terra restaurant Mike Davis welcomed the opportunity for federal aid.

He said previous federal funding had helped keep the restaurant afloat.

“Without that, we would have gotten zero assistance, we might could have tooth and nailed it out, but that definitely eased a lot of stress and made it possible for us to be here now,” he said.

The situation for restaurants nationwide is improving, with the National Restaurant Association reporting 285,900 jobs were added to the industry in the month of February.

In Columbia, Bourbon bar owner Kristian Niemi said the loosening of state restrictions on restaurants has helped the bottom line for his business. He said he questioned the timing related to public health, but admitted its effectiveness.

“I think that gave us the ability to stay open when otherwise we would have closed and the future of our business would have been pretty, pretty dark,” said Niemi.

He said it’s unclear if that bump in revenue will keep Bourbon from being eligible for the new grant program.

Restaurants and businesses may benefit from the package regardless of grant eligibility. SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce President Frank Knapp pointed to the extension of unemployment benefits in the plan, which will fuel the economy.

“It’s going to help [those who are unemployed] pay their bills, their utilities, pay for their rent, it’s going to help them pay for the things they would normally use and all of that is going to go into the local economy. That’s why it’s so crucial to keep that money flowing,” he said.

The restaurant grant program will flow through the SBA when the relief package is signed into law.

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