Advocates for the borough’s food service industry are advising businesses not to wait to fill out grant applications under the now-open Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
And last Friday they said it in six languages outside the Queensboro Restaurant on Northern Boulevard in Jackson Heights at a press conference organized by Queens Together, an organization that represents restaurants and related businesses.
Michael Fuquay, one of the owners of the Queensboro, encouraged owners to apply. He said while Jackson Heights was ground zero in Queens for the Covid-19 pandemic, his restaurant was able to keep going in part by preparing meals for institutions and organizations.
But he also was helped by the federal Payroll Protection Program, two sets of forgivable loans that were aimed at keeping people employed.
“But if it weren’t for the first PPP loan, we would not be here,” he said. “If it were not for the second PPP loan, we would not be here.”
Jonathan Forgash, executive director of Queens Together, brought samples of fliers about the RRF in English, Spanish, Chinese, Nepalese, Hindi and Korean that he said his organization wants to distribute all over Queens.
Many business owners, he said, still are unaware of the program that can help entities such as restaurants, bars, delis, food trucks and food carts.
“This morning I was in a shop on 37th Avenue,” he said. “The owner didn’t know about it.”
The $28.6 billion program can be used to cover expenses dating back to Feb. 15, 2020 and running through Dec. 31, 2021.
Eligible expenses, according to information provided by the office of U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), include but are not limited to payroll and benefits, mortgage and rent payments, utilities, maintenance, supplies including personal protective equipment and cleaning materials, food and sick leave.
The program was launched May 3, and the first 21 days are dedicated to entities owned or controlled by women or veterans, or those in underserved communities.
“We have those in Queens,” Forgash said. He added that his group will be getting the information out en masse in the next two weeks in communities including Astoria, Corona, Elmhurst, Flushing, Jamaica, Laurelton, Long Island City and Rosedale.
“There’s a knowledge gap and an information gap,” said Joe DiStefano of Rego Park, a restaurant consultant and published author. “A lot of owners don’t know about it because they usually have to do nine things at a time and since Covid they’ve had to do 18 things at a time. I’m here because I like Queens restaurants and I want to support them.”
Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, stressed that Congress had made this round of aid a grant.
“It’s not a loan,” he said. “They know you can’t take on more debt.” But Rigie also said the stakes have never been higher for the industry in New York City.
“We are still down 140,000 jobs in the industry since the pre-Covid days,” he said.
José Tejada, executive director of the Dominico-American Society of Queens, appealed to the cameras in Spanish, while Christine Colligan, president of the Korean-American Parents Association of Greater New York, did so in Korean.
Like Forgash and Rigie, Seth Bornstein, executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corp., said the application forms are not made difficult to fill out.
“If you need assistance, we’ll help you,” Bornstein said. Businesses can schedule appointments with the QEDC via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (718) 263-0546.
Information on the applications is available online from the U.S. Small Business Administration at sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/ covid-19-relief-options/restaurant- revitalization-fund.