Miami-Dade Passes $35 Million Grant Program to Help Struggling Restaurants

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, on-premises dining at restaurants in Miami-Dade is limited to outdoor seating.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, on-premises dining at restaurants in Miami-Dade is limited to outdoor seating. Photo courtesy of Villa Azur
With COVID-19 cases surging in Miami and national news outlets comparing our city to Wuhan at the beginning of the pandemic, businesses are suffering.

The hospitality industry has been especially hard hit. Restaurants are subject to increasingly tougher operating rules as the virus continues to spread, bars remain closed, restaurants are limited to outdoor seating for on-premises dining, and a countywide 10 p.m. curfew remains in effect.

To help alleviate some of the mounting financial pressure on Miami's restaurant owners and workers, the Miami-Dade County Commission passed a resolution yesterday that establishes a $35 million business-grant program earmarked for hospitality-industry relief, as part of the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The money comes from the $474 million Miami-Dade received from the federal government as part of the CARES Act. All funds must be used by December 30, 2020.

The resolution was placed on the agenda by Commissioner Dennis C. Moss and unanimously approved by the board.

The assistance is available to "local independently owned and operated restaurants and non-home based caterers impacted by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic." 

The mayor's office has 30 days to provide a written report to commissioners detailing a plan to disperse the $35 million. Upon implementation, the mayor must provide a written report to the board every 60 days detailing how the money is being disbursed.

The resolution earmarks $5 million of the total sum for the Hospitality Industry Relief Fund, established earlier this year by the South Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFF) and Florida International University (FIU) Chaplin School. To date, the fund has paid out $1.5 million, according to SOBEWFF founder Lee Schrager.

In a text to New Times, Schrager says the $5 million allocation from the county still must pass a Miami-Dade Commission vote next Tuesday. "But we have every reason to believe that we will be approved just as the $30 was approved the other day," Schrager writes.

Schrager added that he was working on the legalities of FIU, a state university, receiving funds from the CARES Act but was confident the red tape wouldn't stand in the way.

This story will be updated with more information when the county clarifies how restaurant owners can apply for the grant money.
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss