A fourth surge of COVID-19 cases in Oregon prompted Gov. Kate Brown to once again restrict restaurants in Multnomah County to outdoor seating on Friday.
That means another round of trouble for Oregon restaurants, who’ve had to jump through hoops to stay afloat during multiple shutdowns and changing health rules for operating a restaurant amidst the pandemic.
A glimmer of hope arrives tomorrow: A long-awaited federal relief grant program for restaurants, championed by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, opens for applicants May 3. It offers $28.6 billion in federal funds available for restaurant owners.
The fund is already in high demand. Pre-registration opened on Friday, and within five hours 80,000 businesses across the country had thrown their names into the bucket, according to a spokesperson for Blumenauer.
“The opening of this relief program is a major step forward in the fight to save the local restaurants that make our communities whole. It’s been about one year since I first gathered with the Portland restaurant community to come up with a plan to bring relief to beloved dining and drinking establishments and protect the jobs, supply chains, and local economies they support,” Blumenauer said in a statement. “What started as a local effort to save restaurants became a national movement that secured $28.6 billion in relief funds that will be available soon. Restaurants have been hit harder than any other industry, but help is here.”
The federal grant program prioritizes small businesses and sets aside $5 billion towards restaurants with gross receipts totaling less than $500,000 per year.
Meanwhile, Gov. Brown is contending with an open revolt from the hospitality lobby and elected officials in Portland’s suburbs, who are demanding she allow indoor dining to resume, even though Oregon’s COVID-19 cases are soaring at the highest rate in the nation.