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Oregon congressman, restaurants pushing for more COVID relief funding

Last spring, restaurants nationwide applied for more than $75 billion in federal funding, nearly triple the amount that was made available.

PORTLAND, Ore. — An Oregon congressman is pushing for more federal funding to help restaurants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) met with restaurant owners Tuesday to talk about replenishing the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which provided $28.6 billion in grants to help businesses in the service industry last spring. 

Ricky Gomez, owner of Palomar, a Cuban-inspired cocktail bar in Southeast Portland, said he knows exactly what it’s like to struggle to survive as a restaurant owner. 

“I consider myself lucky. I was one of the applicants who was awarded a grant through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund," said Gomez. "Only a third of the applicants were awarded the grant."

Within three weeks, the fund received more than 362,000 applications requesting more than $75 billion in funding, nearly triple the amount that was available. 

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Gomez didn't say how much money he received from the fund, but he said it was enough to save his businesses. He met with Blumenauer on Tuesday, along with California congressman Rep. Eric Swalwell and a couple other restaurant owners advocating for more funding.

Blumenauer, with support from other members of the U.S. House, has proposed legislation allocating more resources to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) "to cover all existing applications and to continue the program’s outreach to hard-to-reach businesses and communities," according to a news release. 

If the RRF is replenished, Gomez said he does not plan to apply for assistance this time around, but he wants lawmakers to know just how much the funding helped him. 

He's hopeful that restaurants across the country will be able to successfully recover from the challenges that the pandemic has brought on. 

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