TAMPA, Fla. - Relief is on the way for 100,000 small businesses across the country with the launch of the Biden Administration's Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
It's aimed at helping restaurants and bars reopen, or simply keep their doors open, after a year filled with job cuts, profit losses and unexpected obstacles.
While Slice Pizzeria and Winghouse in South Tampa was fortunate to keep their ovens hot through the pandemic, they've taken some hits.
"During lunch hours, this place was packed with military people, completely wall to wall," said Anthony Casterline, General Manager of Slice. "But during the coronavirus, a lot of that got cut down.'
To keep up, they had to cut hours and labor costs.
"We're like, 'Hey, you're not fired, but I just don't have the hours for you. We'll bring you back as soon as we can,'" Casterline explained. "And they ended up finding other opportunities out there and I can't blame them."
When the pandemic hit, restaurants and bars employed 12% of American workers. But in a matter of months, 2.3 million of those jobs disappeared.
"Now as we vaccinate Americans, customers are coming back," said President Biden at a press event Wednesday.
The Restaurant Revitalization Fund aims to bring those jobs back. The $28.6 billion program will provide direct relief to 100,000 hard-hit restaurants, bars, bakeries, food stands, food trucks and caterers.
"Businesses that get grants can use it to cover payroll, rent, utilities, supplies, everything they need to start to stay open and to reopen," Biden said.
Businesses are eligible for grants equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss, up to $10 million per business and no more than $5 million per physical location. Priority will be given, in the first 21 days to those owned by women, veterans, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
You can apply at restaurants.sba.gov.
"We've gone from very bad numbers to, we are at least breaking even and staying ahead of the game here a little bit," Casterline said.
A little extra dough would surely take some heat off, allowing Slice workers to focus more on their own house-made, hand-tossed dough.
"We'd kind of have a little more breathing room," Casterline said. "I have some great people that work here. They work hard. It's been rough and everybody wants to see this place to do well."