The Grant Is Part Of A $35 Million Miami-Dade County Business Grant Program intended to provide immediate financial support to hospitality businesses impacted by COVID-19 closuresBy Lisa Petrillo

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The South Beach Wine and Food Festival and FIU Chaplin School Hospitality have received a $5 million grant from Miami-Dade County designed to provide immediate relief to restaurants and bars impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“This fund in particular, that South Beach Wine and Food Festival and FIU is in administering with the support of United Way, will be used for restaurants independently owned and small businesses,” explained SOBEWFF Founder Lee Schrager. “Small businesses are classified as under 50 employees and under $10 million in business.”

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The fund will grant up to $15,000 per restaurant which will be given to employees.

Since it launched in March, SOBEWFF’s Industry Relief Fund has granted funds to more than 500 local restaurants in South Florida.  It began with a weekly bake sale held outside Schrager’s house.

Immediately, donations, matches and grants came pouring in.

“That led to us raising over $1.7 million and was used for the exact same thing, employee relief,” he said.

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When those checks first came in, chefs and owners were thrilled to be able to help their employees just stay afloat.

“That grant didn’t just help us, it helped the small businesses we buy from. They were able to bring more product and my staff was able to go buy things like diapers, food and gas,” said Richard Plasencia chef and owner of The Twisted Fork in Miami.  “This was a South Florida stimulus relief package weeks before the federal government gave us any help.”

“Little things like this really help small business like ours move forward and get out of this COVID-19 catastrophe,” said Michelle Coleman, Co-owner  of Empanada Harry’s Bakery and Cafe.

“I think it’s relief, Schrager said. “It’s not changing anyone’s life, but maybe it’s helping them cover some bills and get some food. Maybe they just have to worry a little less. I wish it was 10 times that amount of money but we’re happy for what we got now. I’m hoping once we disburse all this money, Major Carlos Gimenez has led me to believe there might be more funds if we run through the money.”

The application process begins Wednesday, August 12 at 12pm. They expect the monies to be released as quickly as they can process them.

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Lisa Petrillo