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LI landlords call for more COVID-19 relief for eateries, bars

Kyle Strober, executive director of the Association for

Kyle Strober, executive director of the Association for a Better Long Island, said in a letter to Washington lawmakers that "it is imperative that the federal government increase or reapportion funding" to help restaurants survive. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Real estate companies on Long Island, many of whom have restaurants and bars as tenants, are calling for more federal grants for those businesses.

The developers’ group, Association for a Better Long Island, asked Congress and the administration of President Joe Biden to double funding for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, or RRF, in a letter sent Sunday.

ABLI’s request follows comments made to Newsday by Biden’s small business chief that the RRF’s $28.6 billion is nearly gone less than two weeks after the program started.

Isabella Casillas Guzman, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, which oversees the RRF, said it has received applications for $65 billion since May 3 from more than 265,000 businesses. "We do expect to be out of funds completely right now," she said in a Newsday interview Friday.

In the ABLI letter, the group’s executive director Kyle Strober wrote, "With our restaurant and food service industry employing hundreds of thousands of individuals, many who rely on their wages week to week to survive, it is imperative that the federal government increase or reapportion funding for the RRF program."

He said the RRF should fulfill the grant applications already received.

Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) said on Monday, "it's clear more money is needed to support restaurants and catering halls to allow these important businesses in our communities to survive."

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), said, "if the [RRF] were to run out of money [Schumer] will fight for more." The senator championed the program in negotiations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Biden. A Pelosi spokesman didn't respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Matt Coleman, a spokesman for SBA's Region II, which includes New York, said, "We are in receipt of the letter."

Should Congress decide to shift money from one COVID-19 relief program to another, only SBA's Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and its Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program still have funds, according to agency officials.

SBA has distributed $2.7 billion in RRF grants to 21,000 businesses so far — all owned by women, veterans or members of minority groups or located in poor neighborhoods. The groups were given priority in the application approval process because they were slighted in the early days of the Paycheck Protection Program loans last year. Applications from these types of businesses are requesting a total of $29 billion — or all the RRF’s funds.

Separately, Kevin Hansen, head of public policy for Empire State Development, the state’s primary business-aid agency, estimated last week that up to $2 billion of the RRF’s initial funding would go to New York restaurants, bars and caterers.

The RRF consists of grants of up to $10 million per business to make up for revenue losses during the pandemic. The funds may be used to pay employee wages, mortgage and rent payments, utility bills, outstanding debts and other operating expenses.

The money must be used by March 11, 2023.

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