Independent Restaurant and Bar Community Urge White House Office of Management and Budget to Remove “Cumbersome” SAM Registration Process for Restaurant Revitalization Fund
White House Office of Management and Budget encouraged use of SAM registration requirements in the latest guidance to heads of executive departments and agencies
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SBA Associate Administrator to U.S. Senate: “One of the limitations for a program of this scale and size could have been the requirement of using SAM.gov but… authorizing language speaks to giving the agency the discretion to seek unique identifiers that the industry uses.”
IRC Urges White House OMB To Eliminate The SAM Registration Requirement
Washington, D.C. -- Following testimony yesterday from the Small Business Administration in the U.S. Senate, the Independent Restaurant Coalition is urging the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to eliminate the System for Award Management (SAM) registration requirement for independent restaurants and bars applying for relief grants through the Restaurant RevitalIzation Fund.
In a letter to officials at OMB, the IRC pressed the agencies to remove the SAM registration process from the restaurant revitalization fund application altogether, calling it “cumbersome” for small businesses. You can read the full text of the letter here and below.
“Between notarized letters, multiple business registrations, lack of multilingual support, lack of professional advisors, and many other complications, small and independent restaurants and bars will not be able to successfully navigate this system that was designed for repeat grant awardees and much larger organizations,” writes Erika Polmar, Executive Director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, in the letter. “Requiring users to go through SAM.gov is tying the hands of many of the smallest and most vulnerable members of our community, leaving larger and more capable restaurant groups to access funding."
The Acting Director of OMB outlined the SAM registration requirement in a March 19th memo to heads of executive departments and agencies: “Agencies must apply the requirements of title 2 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Grants and Agreements to Federal financial assistance funded through the ARP to the maximum extent authorized by law. This includes the existing requirement… for financial assistance recipients to register at SAM.gov.”
Agencies Given Flexibility
During a US Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship hearing yesterday, J Patrick Kelley, Associate Administrator, Office of Capital Access in the Small Business Administration, lauded Congress for giving agencies this flexibility. "Congress should feel really good about the statutory language that you've given us to authorize this program. So, for example, one of the limitations for a program of this scale and size could have been the requirement of using SAM.gov, but as you know, the statutory authorizing language speaks to giving the agency the discretion to seek unique identifiers that the industry uses… that's important because SAM.gov services 757,000 entities, and it is scheduled for maintenance in April, so having that latitude to design a unique instance with the industry sector unique identifiers is a really important step."
In conversations with the SBA over the past several weeks, the IRC continues to advocate for the removal of the requirement that restaurants and bars obtain a government ID number that’s known as a “DUNS” (Data Universal Numbering System) through the SAM registration. The IRC has created resources to help the independent restaurant and bar community register for SAM and DUNS IDs while waiting on clarity from the government on how the SBA will handle the process. Since February, the SBA and White House have been in conversation with representatives of the IRC to discuss the implementation of the restaurant revitalization fund.
This effort follows the IRC’s yearlong campaign to advocate for independent restaurant and bar relief, and ongoing partnership with the White House to provide the support the industry needs. The $28.6 billion restaurant and bar grant relief program is part of the American Rescue Plan signed into law by President Biden earlier this month. The bill is modeled after the RESTAURANTS Act, which was first proposed by thousands of IRC supporters in an April 2020 letter to Congress.
A Necessary First Step For Restaurants And Bars
Last month, the IRC invited over 300 members of the restaurant and bar community to discuss this new relief fund and state of the industry with the White House, including Senior Advisor to President Biden, former Congressman Cedric Richmond and Bharat Ramamurti, the Deputy Director of the National Economic Council. Congressman Richmond said this is “a necessary first step for restaurants and bars, and we look forward to collaborating with the Independent Restaurant Coalition to ensure small businesses can access this relief.”
This first-of-its kind grant program provides debt-free support in the amount of annual revenue lost from 2019 and 2020, with special provisions for businesses that opened in 2020 and 2019. They can only be used on eligible expenses (below) that incurred starting on February 15, 2020 and ending at the end of 2021. Unused funds– or funds not used for these purposes– will be returned to the government. These expenses include:
- Payroll (excluding employee compensation exceeding $100,000/year), employee benefits, and paid sick leave;
- Mortgage, rent, and utilities;
- Outdoor seating construction;
- Supplies, protective equipment, and cleaning materials;
- Food and beverage;
- Operational expenses; and
- Debt obligations to suppliers.
This program caters to the most vulnerable businesses: grants cannot exceed $10,000,000 per restaurant group (which cannot have more than 20 entities), and $5,000,000 per business. The Small Business Administration (SBA) will prioritize awarding grants to businesses owned or controlled by women or Veterans or socially disadvantaged businesses. More information on this grant program is available on the IRC’s website.
About The IRC:
The Independent Restaurant Coalition was formed by chefs and independent restaurant owners across the country who have built a grassroots movement to secure vital protections for the nation’s 500,000 independent restaurants and the more than 11 million restaurant and bar workers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
March 25, 2021
Office of Management and Budget
725 17th St., NW
Washington, DC 20503
Dear Acting Director Fairweather,
I write today on behalf of the more than 500,000 independent restaurants and bars across the country and the more than 110,000 that have closed throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been working with Capitol Hill and recently the Small Business Administration (SBA) to create and stand up the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) from the recently passed American Rescue Plan. This desperately needed $28.6 billion is set to be spread among independent restaurants and bars and we must ensure that the funds that are distributed get to the restaurants and other food service businesses that need it the most, especially when this amount of money isn’t enough to cover the needs of the entire industry.
With the strong support of the Biden Administration, Congress created an unprecedented grant program, both in size and scope, to help independent bars and restaurants. We are grateful for the Administration’s efforts to date quickly stand up this program and get grants in the hands of those who need them most.
The use of SAM.gov for the administration of the RRF is cumbersome for independent restaurants and bars desperate for relief. This platform works well for a number of large and sophisticated companies that have contracts with the federal government, but local restaurants and bars are smaller organizations who lack the time or know-how to successfully complete the SAM registration process. Independent restaurants and bars do not need an ongoing financial relationship with the federal government, unlike the contractors and consultants that rely on the SAM registration process for recurring payments.
Between notarized letters, multiple business registrations, lack of multilingual support, lack of professional advisors, and many other complications, small and independent restaurants and bars will not be able to successfully navigate this system that was designed for repeat grant awardees and much larger organizations. Requiring users to go through SAM.gov is tying the hands of many of the smallest and most vulnerable members of our community, leaving larger and more capable restaurant groups to access funding.
Our community very much appreciates the work the Biden Administration is doing now, especially at the SBA, to make sure this program is accessible as possible. Eliminating the use of SAM.gov would be another massive step in this direction.
We look forward to working with you and the Biden Administration to roll out the RRF and ensure the funds are accessible to the neighborhood restaurants and bars who need it most.
Executive Director, Independent Restaurant Coalition