In brief

Restaurant Revitalization Fund application, guidelines announced

U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman announced Thursday key details on application requirements, eligibility, and a program guide for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

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The restaurant industry has been among the hardest-hit sectors during the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. To help bring jobs back and revive the industry, the American Rescue Plan, signed into law by President Joe Biden, established the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RFF) at the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA will administer the funds to the hardest-hit small restaurants.

“We are starting the process to help restaurants and bars across the country devastated by the pandemic, and this is our message: Help is here. With the launch of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, we’re prioritizing funding to the hardest-hit small businesses — irreplaceable gathering places in our neighborhoods and communities that need a lifeline now to get back on their feet,” said Guzman. “And, thanks to clear directives from Congress, we’re rolling out this program to make sure that these businesses can meet payroll, purchase supplies, and get what they need in place to transition to today’s COVID-restricted marketplace.”

Details on application requirements, eligibility, and a program guide are available at www.sba.gov/restaurants.

Ahead of the application launch and over the next two weeks, the SBA will establish a seven-day pilot period for the RRF application portal and conduct extensive outreach and training. The pilot period will be used to address technical issues ahead of the public launch. Participants in this pilot will be randomly selected from existing PPP borrowers in priority groups for RRF and will not receive funds until the application portal is open to the public.

Following the pilot, the application portal will be opened to the public. The official application launch date will be announced at a later date. For the first 21 days that the program is open, the SBA will prioritize reviewing applications from small businesses owned by women, veterans, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. Following the 21-day period, all eligible applicants are encouraged to submit applications.

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DR Horton names former Trump cabinet member to board of directors

Texas-based homebuilder D.R. Horton has named Dr. Ben Carson, the former HUD Secretary under President Trump, to its board of directors.

Carson’s appointment, effective Tuesday, expands the board to seven directors. D.R. Horton has been the nation’s largest homebuilder by volume since 2002.

Carson, a neurosurgeon before entering politics as a Republican presidential candidate, served as secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development from 2017 to this year. At HUD, he’s credited with leading a collaboration of eight federal agencies to establish the White House Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing.

“The company will benefit greatly from Ben’s intellect, life experiences and leadership skills, including his recent experience as HUD Secretary,” board chairman Donald R. Horton said in a statement. “Ben has been actively involved in programs directly related to U.S. housing, including homebuyer education and the need for affordable housing to improve the quality of life for families in America.”

The company’s board members were paid cash and stock awards in fiscal 2020 that ranged from $155,304 to $822,659 based on meeting attendance, committee responsibilities and other factors, according to a regulatory filing.

D.R. Horton has operations in 90 markets in 29 states, including Hawaii, and closed on 71,168 homes in 2020. Its brand portfolio ranges from $150,000 to over $1 million.

US jobless claims plunged last week to fresh pandemic low

Applications for U.S. state unemployment insurance unexpectedly plunged to a fresh pandemic low as the job market recovery gathers steam.

Initial claims in regular state programs decreased by 39,000 to 547,000 in the week ended April 17, Labor Department data showed Thursday. Economists in a Bloomberg survey estimated 610,000 claims. The prior week’s figure was revised up to 586,000.

The job market is strengthening as employers look to fill positions that were left empty by pandemic restrictions that have now been eased. Growth should speed up even more following a nationwide goal of administering an average of three million vaccinations per day. The claims data follow strong manufacturing, retail sales and other indicators in recent weeks.

Continuing claims for ongoing state benefits fell 34,000 to 3.67 million in the week ended April 10. Applications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for self-employed and gig workers rose slightly.

Coca-Cola sees ‘promising signs’ for COVID-19 pandemic recovery

Increased vaccinations are helping Coca-Cola Company recapture some of its global drink business, with the company reporting last week that volume of drinks sold reached pre-pandemic levels in March.

CEO James Quincey told analysts that he sees “promising signs that a broader recovery is on the horizon.” The Atlanta-based company reported better financial results than some analysts had expected.

That was welcome news following 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic left Coke with its steepest annual decline in the volume of drinks sold since the 1940s.

Quincey also on April 19 predicted a relatively quick succession of recovery phases in the United States, where restaurants and bars started to rebound in March. Still, he said, the company’s U.S. fountain business — as opposed to drinks in bottles and cans — was still down.

Next up, but yet to occur, may be a broader return of U.S. workers to employer’s offices, which could help lunch businesses in big city centers, followed potentially by more people at movie theaters, concerts and sporting events, he said.

In more typical times, Coke generates half its worldwide business in places like restaurants, convenience stores and gathering and event spots.

“We are encouraged by improvements in our business, especially in markets where vaccine availability is increasing and economies are opening up,” Quincey said in a prepared written statement.

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By local and wire sources

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