DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) — More help is on the way for the many small businesses in the hospitality industry still struggling to recover from COVID-19's economic impact.
"I know too many people that just couldn't hold their breath long enough... and just sunk with the ship," says Mark Maguire. Maguire owns several restaurants in Dallas and knows firsthand how hospitality-based businesses have struggled during and after the pandemic.
"Food costs are absolutely out of control," says Brandon Luke at "Smithy on Henderson" in Dallas, "and then you have all of the issues with product availability and costs just keep going this way," as he gestures upwards with his hands.
Luke and his partners plan to apply for a new state grant program that awards up to $20,000 to hospitality-based businesses most impacted by COVID-19. It's called the TTIR: the Texas Travel Industry Recovery Grant Program. Applicants are still eligible even if they received PPP loans or other aid.
And Luke is applauding the Texas Restaurant Association for keeping the pressure on state lawmakers to make the grants available. "We are grateful for the grant money, and we thank TRA for what they've done because it is needed," says Luke.
"It's just that it's unfortunate that you can't quantify all the debt and all that's happened over the last two years. People just see a business open... and they see food sitting on the table and they think things are back to normal, but they are far from normal."
They know that for restaurants operating on razor thin margins, every dollar helps.
"There's a couple of hundred thousand outlets in the state of Texas," says Maguire, "and we are all going to be scrambling to get a little bit of this money."
Maguire says for the small, office building-based cafes he operates, this kind of grant money could help keep the doors open – because the operating pressures are real.
"So, it was a struggle finding people [to hire] for a long period of time. Now, we're starting to find them, but the wage pressure is pretty outrageous," shares Maguire. "Our hourly wage has increased almost 40% in the last four months. The other side of it is the product side. In October of last year, I was paying $2.98 per pound for chicken. It's almost $6 now... and that's if I can get it. "
The application window for the grant money opens on Tuesday. But we warned; "'free cash" goes fast. The Texas Economic Development Office, which is administering the program, has already posted an online video showing small business owners how to apply.
One final word of advice from Maguire? Don't procrastinate.
"There's a very limited amount of funds available," warns Maguire. "Make sure you get with your accounting people, get with your CPAs, and tee-up this application and get everything ready so you can hit 'send' on Tuesday."
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