A firestorm erupted after Los Angeles County health officials shut down outdoor dining at the area’s restaurants on Monday. Restauranteurs maintained that thousands would lose their jobs and that there was no scientific basis for the order.
Cities as diverse as Beverly Hills, Lancaster and Hawaiian Gardens denounced the move. Pasadena, which has its own health department, went so far as to defy the order and allow outdoor dining to continue.
On Wednesday evening, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said that “four in every 10 people who work in full service restaurants have lost their jobs this year.”
That, as millions of Californians are set to lose supplemental unemployment benefits provided by the federal government under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs on December 31.
Now, starting at midnight tonight, Los Angeles County will offer $30,000 grants to small restaurant owners struggling to make ends meet.
Applications will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. Sunday or when 2,500 applications are received, whichever comes first, and will be funded on a first-come, first-served basis by supervisorial district.
“This pandemic and the recent closure of outdoor dining has been devastating to our restaurants and restaurant workers,” County Supervisor Janice Hahn said in a statement. “These grants are meant to help as many restaurants as possible make ends meet and make it through this crisis. We know it won’t be enough. We need another federal stimulus package to get a lifeline to all of our businesses and workers that are struggling.”
Eligible restaurants must be located within the county, excluding the cities of Los Angeles and Pasadena, and have less than 25 employees and no more than five locations total. Pop-up locations and food trucks do not qualify.
A total of roughly $5.6 million will be split equally among the five county supervisorial districts, with priority given to restaurants that were operating outdoor dining on Nov. 24, just before the recent ban took effect.
The funding is intended to be used for working capital needs such as meeting payroll, paying outstanding expenses and funding changes required to stay open during the spread of COVID-19.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who opposed the county’s recent decision to temporarily end in-person dining, said restaurants have made “incredible sacrifices” to align with public safety protocols.
“These restaurants — the vast majority of which employ fewer than 25 people — truly represent the small business community that drives the county’s economic engine,” Barger said. “The recent health officer orders to close in-person dining was a devastating blow and as a result, the board identified the need to immediately deploy grant funding to support these impacted small businesses.”
The program will be operated by the Los Angeles County Development Authority. LACDA officials said restaurant owners who apply must demonstrate that their business was impacted by COVID-19 through hardship due to closure and a reduction in revenue.
Owners must also be prepared to provide tax returns from 2018 or 2019, a current business license, a copy of the inspection grade card issued by the Department of Public Health, organizational documents and other information. Applicants notified of a grant will have a maximum of three days to provide missing information.
No restaurant with a less than a C rating will be eligible. Businesses that have already received assistance from other Los Angeles County Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act programs are also ineligible.
Los Angeles County’s ban on in-person dining will remain for at least another week. While a judge declined to issue an order lifting the restriction on Wednesday, he directed county attorneys to provide the medical evidence being used to justify the ban.
Mayor Garcetti announced his own cash aid program for food service workers on Wednesday evening, including those employed by restaurants, breweries and food stands.
It’s called the Secure Emergency Relief for Vulnerable Employees (SERVE). The partnership between Garcetti’s office and the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles. SERVE will offer 4,000 food service workers a one-time $800 stipend to help them during this critical period. Details and requirements can be found here.
Garcetti said Wednesday evening that the city itself may be forced to institute layoffs, including Los Angeles Police Department personnel if it does not receive federal help. He said he hoped layoffs would be a last-resort measure, but is prepared to institute them amid financial struggles due to the pandemic.
“I hope that [layoffs are] at the very bottom of the list,” said Garcetti. “Our City Administrative Officer has asked…all of our departments to say how will we close this worst-case scenario if there is no help.”
The City Council had been mulling ways to reduce potential layoffs or furloughs, but that was before the recent all time highs in infections and hospitalizations, over which Garcetti also sounded the alarm on Wednesday.
City News Service contributed to this report.
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