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The American Rescue Plan Act Expands Current Federal Pandemic Aid to Small Businesses

March 24, 2021, by Christina M. Le

The coronavirus pandemic lockdowns financially ravaged many small businesses this past year, requiring the federal government to provide periodic aid. At this time, although the pandemic conditions are starting to finally improve, with vaccines being administered and lockdowns being lifted, there are still many small businesses that require additional funds to make it through this current period.

The good news for these smaller businesses is that financial pandemic relief from the federal government is still available, and additional aid is being provided through the American Rescue Plan Act, enacted on March 11, 2021. The Act provides additional funds to various pre-existing programs, creates new grants and programs, and expands the scope of the small businesses eligible to receive federal aid.

We summarize what the Act offers small businesses below:

$7.25 Billion for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

This bill includes $7.25 billion in “new” money for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and includes changes to the PPP eligibility requirements that would now allow news services and additional non-profits to apply.

Whether a business is applying for the first time, reapplying, or looking to increase their prior PPP loan, the deadline to submit applications is March 31, 2021 – the date the PPP program ends. Although there is currently another bill pending seeking to extend the current PPP deadline, any business interested in applying should do so as soon as possible in case this bill does not pass, and to ensure access to the limited funds.

$15 Billion for the Economic Disaster Loan (EIDL) Advance Grants

The bill expands the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Advance program by $15 billion. Small businesses in low-income communities that have suffered an economic loss of more than 30% and have under 300 employees will now be eligible for an advance of up to $10,000. The program is designed to roll out in a series of exclusive windows, starting with businesses that did not get the full amount they applied for initially.

$1.25 Billion for the SBA’s Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) Program

The SBA’s Shuttered Venue Operator Grant Program (SVOG) was passed under the last relief package in December 2020 and is worth $15 billion, but the SBA has yet to enact the program. These grants are available to movie theaters, museums, performance venues, and other institutions whose principal business activity is live events. The grants are equal to the lesser of 45 percent of the venue’s gross revenue in 2019 or $10 million.

The American Rescue Plan Act adds another $1.25 billion to this program and now allows businesses to apply for both a PPP loan and the SVOG.

$28.6 Billion for the Food Services Industry

This bill also includes a lifeline to the food services industry hard-hit by the pandemic through the creation of the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF). Eligible restaurants and bars will be able to apply for grants based on lost gross revenue between 2019 and 2020. The maximum grant size will be $5 million for restaurants and $10 million for restaurant groups. Applicants cannot have applied for other federal pandemic assistance and any sums not timely used have to be returned to the government. Those not eligible include state or government entities or owners with 20 or more restaurants.

The SBA will administer and disperse the RRF grants, but the program does not have a launch date yet. It is anticipated that the program will launch in a few weeks, so eligible companies should monitor the SBA site for the launch date and be ready to apply.

$100 Million for a “Community Navigator” Pilot Program

The bill includes $100 million for a “community navigator” pilot program designed to help community organizations and financial institutions obtain funding to provide outreach, education, and technical assistance to help eligible small businesses become aware of and participate in Covid-19 relief programs. The program’s focus is increasing access among businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged groups.

Conclusion

If your business is interested in seeking federal pandemic aid, your business should determine its eligibility, options, and apply for the aid as soon as possible to ensure access to the limited funds. With the pandemic conditions currently improving, these pandemic programs and grants may not be available in the near future.

For more information on these relief options, their availability, and how to apply, please see: www.sba.gov/coronavirusrelief.