Some half a million independent restaurant owners across the U.S. celebrated a major victory last week when Congress passed a rescue package for small businesses, including billions of dollars in federal aid for restaurants that suffered financial losses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund, part of the Biden Administration’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, will offer direct grants to restaurants and other qualifying food businesses, offering urgent relief to ailing establishments. The targeted aid comes not a moment too soon — independent restaurant owners across the country have long maintained that grants, versus loans they have to pay back, are crucial to their continued operation.

“It’s very clearly a grant, not a loan, and that’s massive, and super, super important,” said Naomi Pomeroy, a restaurant owner and founding member of the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC), a trade group formed to help restaurants hurt by COVID-19. “I can’t stress enough how little we need more loans like those provided by the Paycheck Protection Program.”

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