Government help coming for up to 1,000 Oakland restaurants and bars

December 04, 2020, 12:30 PM

A new program will toss a financial lifeline to Oakland food and beverage operators at the end of a stormy year.

The county will use $3 million from its general fund and $7 million from its federal CARES Act allocation to help restaurants and bars hurt by reduced patronage and state shutdowns. Up to 1,000 businesses will get checks or supplies under the Oakland Together Restaurant Relief Program.

"Our local restaurants and their workers are important parts of our community," County Executive David Coulter says in a statement, "and we wanted to ... help stabilize their operations."

His announcement comes two days after a state agency said it will distribute $9.7 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to 650 small business owners, who can apply Dec. 15 for grants of up to $15,000.

In Oakland, the county is partnering with local chambers of commerce and downtown development authorities to distribute grants of unspecified amounts. Details for hospitality business owners will be posted here Dec. 15. 

A sign of the industry's tough times in downtown Detroit. (Photo: Michael Lucido)

Here's how the suburban program will work:

  • $7 million will be divided among roughly 1,000 businesses that earlier received stabilization, recovery or restart grants from county CARES Act funds. Recipients needn't reapply and will get checks automatically. Money can be used to cover perishable food losses, rent or mortgage payments, and labor costs. The county must spend the federal funds by Dec. 30.

  • $2 million from the county’s general fund will help selected restaurants and bars adapt for outside service. The county is buying small greenhouse-type structures, electric and propane heaters, propane tanks and other items to be given out.

  • $1 million will help food and beverage servers reopen safely by giving them personal protective equipment, hand sanitation stations and customer-tracing software.

Since spring, Oakland has distributed $140 million in federal aid to over 15,000 local businesses, 22 chambers of commerce, 28 school districts and to residents needing rent or mortgage assistance.

Coulter, like government leaders at city and state levels, hopes Washington lawmakers will approve fresh Covid-impact support this month. "This is one of the last programs using our CARES Act funds, which is why it is important for Congress to approve additional relief," he says. "This virus is not going away, and we need additional resources for recovery, COVID mitigation and vaccine preparation."


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