VFW and American Legion halls in Nassau County will be...

VFW and American Legion halls in Nassau County will be eligible to apply for grants. Shown here, a facility in Franklin Square. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Small banquet halls are now eligible for COVID-19 relief grants from Nassau County, officials said.

The county has expanded its $2.3 million Restaurant Recovery Grant Program, begun in November, because $530,000 remains to be distributed.

Banquet halls with catering staff of 50 or fewer people are eligible for the Nassau grants, which are $5,000 or $10,000 – depending on the size of the work force. Meeting halls run by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and other charitable or religious organizations may apply if they offer catered events.

All banquet facilities must have a valid permit from the county’s Department of Health.

"We’ll continue to be nimble – adapting our programs with the changing needs of businesses," said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. "We must do everything we can to ensure our once-vibrant restaurant scene comes back strong" from the pandemic.

The inclusion of banquet halls owned by veteran and fraternal organizations comes as "things are so dire for some [that] they might be forced to sell their buildings due to the loss in revenues they have suffered," the county legislature's Republican majority wrote in a letter last week. "While some of the [COVID] restrictions are beginning to ease, these establishments are nowhere near pre-pandemic levels and there's no indication that will happen any time soon."

The grant program has awarded $1.7 million to 238 restaurants in Nassau so far. Each has 50 or fewer employees, said Curran spokeswoman Justine DiGiglio-Cifarelli, adding the funds are from the federal Community Block Grant program.

Nassau reopened the restaurant grants program in February after previous applicants didn’t meet the eligibility requirements or didn’t respond to follow-up questions from the county and grants administrator National Development Council in Manhattan.

Owners of small banquet halls and restaurants may apply at nassaucountyny.gov/restaurantrecovery. More information is available by sending an email to nassaurestaurants@ndconline.org or by calling 646-825-9617.

Kyle Strober, executive director of the developers’ group Association for a Better Long Island, said the Nassau grant program can serve as a lifeline for struggling restaurants as they wait for the U.S. Small Business Administration to launch a funding program for the food-and-drink sector.

A Nassau grant "may provide the critical bridge that enables owners to maintain their staff and pay their bills," said Strober, a member of Curran’s COVID economic advisory council.

More federal funds

On Saturday, SBA announced a slow rollout of its $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund, or RRF, with eligible businesses that already have Paycheck Protection Program loans being selected for a week-long test.

Test participants must be located in a poor neighborhood or be owned by a woman, veteran or member of a minority group.

The national test will take place "over the next two weeks" but no money will be distributed until the RRF application portal opens, which will probably be next month, the agency said. Once that happens, SBA will initially only process applications from women, minorities, veterans and those with operations in poor communities for 21 days.

RRF funding is up to $10 million per applicant and up to $5 million per location. The money doesn't have to be repaid if it's spent by March 11, 2023.

More information is available at nwsdy.li/RestRevFund.

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