By BRENT MARTIN
St. Joseph Post
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Restaurants and bars devastated by restrictions imposed during the coronavirus pandemic will soon receive help from the federal government.
Eating and drinking establishments can apply for grants under the new $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief and economic stimulus plan pushed by President Joe Biden and approved by Congress.
Regional Director Rebecca Lobina with the Northwest Missouri State University Small Business Development Center says the numbers presented to the center by bars closed when governments worried they would spread COVID-19 are astonishing.
“Some of the percentages were, like, 4,000%,” Lobina says during an appearance on the KFEQ Hotline. “Not 400; 4,000% on the decrease from one year to the next. So, it was like a phenomenal amount of funding that they lost.”
The federal program is not available yet, but Lobina suggests restaurant and bar owners begin preparation now. Owners will need a Dun and Bradstreet number and a SAM number from the Small Business Administration. The grants will be based on gross receipts, comparing 2019 business to business in 2020.
Lobina says the federal grants could help many survive. Still, Lobina says eating and drinking establishments learned a lot through the pandemic, such as the importance of communication with customers, such as informing customers of their hours or simple things such as how to order and pick up curbside.
“They started learning, if they didn’t already know, they learned quickly that you have to communicate that or your customers get frustrated and leave.”
Lobina says the toll on some business owners has been devastating.
“People are crying on the phone,” Lobina recalls about owners calling the Small Business Development Center. “People sound desperate, because they are. Because things didn’t bounce back as quickly as people hoped that they would, even when they were back open. It’s hard. It’s been really hard for people and it continues to be hard for some.”