Last week, the U.S. Small Business Administration reported that restaurants had requested nearly double the $28.6 billion the federal government made available in the Restaurant Relief Fund.

Today, U.S Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who championed the bill in Congress, shared how Oregon’s restaurants fared in the race for funding.

Nearly 1,000 Oregon BIPOC-, women- and veteran-owned restaurants, bars and food carts across the state were awarded funding, an average of $143,000 per restaurant.

Blumenauer says he and other lawmakers are urging Congress to replenish the restaurant relief program, and quickly.

“This is a lifeline,” Blumenauer said. “We’re hard at work in Congress to see if we can replenish that fund because of this overwhelming demand.”

Nationwide, 38,000 restaurants were awarded funding. The first 21 days of the program prioritized minority-owned businesses. Blumenauer said Congress learned from the Paycheck Protection Plan early in the pandemic that those needing the most assistance were often not the ones being awarded funds.

“Early on with PPP funding, it appeared as though it wasn’t necessarily those who had the greatest need [getting the funding], and we learned form that,” Blumenauer said.

Blumenauer says it’s the smoothest-run program he’s seen in his 24 years in Congress.

Meanwhile, Oregon dining rooms are sensing an end to the COVID restrictions that have squeezed their receipts.

Last week, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown dangled a carrot in front of Oregonians in an effort to encourage vaccinations: Once 70% are at least partially vaccinated, most restrictions will be lifted, including restrictions on restaurant dining capacity.