The Biden administration opened a new relief fund for restaurants. 186,200 applied in 2 days.

Biden burgers
President Joe Biden. Scott Olson/Getty Images
  • A $28.6 billion program designed to help restaurants received over 186,000 in its first two days.
  • The Restaurant Revitalization Fund was established as part of the American Rescue Plan.
  • “Our restaurants need a seat at the table,” President Joe Biden said in an address.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A $28.6 billion restaurant aid program received 186,200 applications in its first two days, according to the White House.

Bars, restaurants, and other eligible businesses could start applying for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) on May 3. The initiative is part of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, and provides grants of up to $10 million for businesses that lost revenue in 2020.

More than $9 billion of the program’s funds were set aside for businesses that made under $500,000 in 2019; those businesses represent 61,700 of applicants so far.

For its first 21 days, the program will prioritize applications from small businesses owned by women, veterans, and those who are “socially and economically disadvantaged.” According to the White House, 97,600 applications came from those groups.

In a Wednesday address, Biden said it looks like about 100,000 restaurants and other eligible businesses will be able to receive relief, and he wrote a similar statement on Twitter.

As Insider’s Jennifer Ortakales Dawkins reported, businesses will be able to use their funds on everything from rent to payroll to paid sick leave.

“Right now, only about a quarter of the restaurant owners expect to return to normal operations in the next six months. We can do much better than that with the American Rescue Plan,” Biden said.

As the economy has reopened, the ailing leisure, hospitality, and retail industries have seen employment rebound. A third of March’s surprisingly robust job additions – 916,000 nonfarm payroll jobs – were in those industries. Small businesses have also been increasingly opening up as vaccinations ramp up and restrictions lift in many areas.

However, small businesses in the service sector have seen a bleaker outlook: A new analysis from the New York Federal Reserve‘s Liberty Street Economics of about 100,000 such businesses found that 35% of businesses active prior to the pandemic remain closed. Just about 4% of workers laid off from those closed businesses will be rehired, according to the analysis, and likely only 3% of those businesses will actually reopen.

“We’re relying on restaurants to play a big role in our recovery,” Biden said. “We want our economy to recover in a way that deals everyone in and our restaurants need a seat at the table – no pun intended.”