CHICAGO (WLS) -- Restaurants in Chicago's Chinatown were the first to be impacted by the pandemic. The U.S. China Restaurant Alliance estimates revenues are down 50 to 90 percent during the pandemic, and some restaurants that have closed may not come back.
But there was some hope Tuesday, as Congressman Danny Davis joined other leaders to announce a new fund to help struggling eateries.
"$28.6 billion was made available," Rep. Davis announced. "Restaurant owners who managed to keep their doors open can get the help they need."
Davis was joined by Bo Steiner, the Illinois director of the U.S. Small Business Administration, and some Chinatown restaurateurs for the start of the SBA's Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
"We do know it's going to have a huge impact on our small business community, especially a community as vibrant and thriving as Chinatown," said Steiner.
"People are really struggling and hopefully all the restaurant owners can take advantage of this program," said Mabel Moy, board chairman of the Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.
Unlike the Paycheck Protection Program, restaurant owners apply for relief directly through the SBA so they don't have to go through a bank, and the money does not need to be repaid of the applicant uses it for allowable expenses.
Sam Ma kept his restaurant BBQ King open, if only for carry out, and kept staff on payroll during the pandemic, but everything was reduced.
"Last year, COVID-19, Chinatown, the community, the restaurants, we lost a lot of business," he said.
Restaurant and business owners hope increased vaccination will allow the city to open by its new July 4 goal, and allow them to get back to normal welcoming customers as quickly as possible.