The Restaurant Relief Fund approved by Congress was supposed to help struggling restaurants hit hard by the pandemic. Instead, it was shut down amid legal challenges, having awarded funding to just 44.5 percent of Washington restaurants who applied, according to a new report from the Small Business Administration.

In Washington, 7,236 eateries submitted applications for a total requested amount of more than $2 billion. Just 3,247 requests were approved, and those businesses received $921 million in funding, according to a report released by the Small Business Administration this week.

“We are calling on Congress to backfill program funding so that these small businesses get the help they need,” said Anthony Anton, president and CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association. “Six members of Washington’s Congressional delegation have already signed on in support of additional funding. We’re grateful for their support, and call on the rest of our delegation for their support.”

Closures due to the pandemic hit hospitality businesses harder than any other industry by far, according to data from the state Department of Revenue. “In Washington, the pandemic caused the closure of thousands of restaurants, and we know more could close if they don’t get the support they need,” Anton said.

Nationally, numbers released by the SBA this week show that more than 278,000 businesses applied for more than $72 billion in funding. In total, about 101,000 businesses were approved for a total of $28 billion in funding. You can see the report here.

“If we want to sustain a thriving, diverse restaurant industry, Congress must fix this by adding more funding to the program. So many operators I know are deep in debt through no fault of their own. Some were thankfully able to secure funding, others were approved but didn’t receive it, and many were never able to apply at all,” said Steve Hooper, president of Seattle Restaurant Alliance and at Ethan Stowell Restaurant Group.

One business owner who was approved for funding but never received it is Chelley Bassett, owner of Murphy’s Pub in Seattle. “I waited for a month for the funding that would help our business stay open, only to find out the program closed, and our application was canceled. It’s heartbreaking, and I can only call on Congress to do the right thing and support businesses impacted by the pandemic.”

A petition to ask Congressional leaders to backfill RRF funding is here: