Fast-food for thought: Restaurant Recovery Act in New Orleans

Throughout the pandemic, creative businesses in New Orleans received different kinds of federal funding to stay afloat, especially the Restaurant Recovery Act (RRA) and the Payment Protection Program (PPP). An analysis of federal databases for PPP loans and Restaurant Recovery Act grants revealed that local restaurants were the biggest small business benefactors of federal COVID-19 aid. Not only do restaurants, approximately 2400 at last count, comprise the biggest sector in the local creative economy, they received $14 million in aid.

Nevertheless, aid was unevenly distributed. Only 181 out of 2,400 local dining businesses received relief. These numbers might suggest despite the pandemic, many restaurants were still doing well and perhaps did not need loans. Culinary arts’ businesses grew during 2020-2021. In many case, though, owners were unaware aid existed. One unnamed restaurant owner said she received only $3000 aid, which did not even cover her employees, much less her basic food costs.

The City of New Orleans considers the cultural economy to be imperative to the health and well being of the city. Just based on the distribution of federal funding to cultural businesses, we see some of them got premium care during the pandemic, while others got a band-aid.

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