Delivering remarks at the White House on Wednesday, President Biden explained how the Restaurant Revitalization Fund will help an industry struggling from COVID-19 restrictions.
JOE BIDEN: Our nation's restaurants were some of the first hit and the worst hit. In 2020, more than 2,300-- excuse me, 2.3 million restaurants jobs disappeared-- 2.3 million restaurant jobs disappeared. Restaurants are more than a major driver of our economy, they're woven into the fabric of our communities.
And so for many families restaurants are the gateway to opportunity, a key part of the American story. There are families of all races, all ethnic backgrounds, all nationalities in this country who've built their American dream around family-- a family-owned restaurant. And for more workers, their own story of economic progress starts in a restaurant.
In the restaurant I just visited, and Rogelio Martinez, who immigrated to this country 17 years ago, started working as a meatpacker. Now, he is the restaurant's lead butcher and one of its owners. For nearly one in three Americans-- this is hard to believe-- for one in three Americans, a restaurant provided their first job. More than half of all Americans have worked in a restaurant at some point in their lives.
Before the pandemic, restaurants and bars employed 12%-- 12%-- of all the workers in our country. This is an industry that provided more opportunity for minority managers than any other industry in America. This is an industry where the staff feels like family and often is family. When the pandemic hit, restaurant owners and operators were resilient, creative, and generous.
Almost overnight, restaurants put in place safety measures to protect their employees and to protect us. They stepped up to feed our front-line workers. They changed their menus. They transitioned to takeout and delivery so they could be serving people who depended on them. But even with the changes, many had to furlough, or lay off workers, or close entirely.
The restaurant I visited today went from 55 employees to just seven before it started to bounce back. Now, as we vaccinate Americans, customers are coming back, our vaccination progress and our economic recovery is going hand in hand. As that happens, we want to make sure that our restaurants, bars, and other dining establishments can staff back up and they can come back as well.
Right now, only about a quarter of the restaurant owners expect to return to normal operations in the next six months. We can do much better than that with the American Rescue Plan. The Restaurant and Revitalization Fund-- that's what it's called, Revitalization Fund-- will provide direct relief to restaurants and to hard-hit food establishments-- bars, bakeries, food stands, food trucks, and caterers.
Businesses that get grants can use it to cover payroll, rent, utilities, supplies-- everything they need to stay open and to reopen. We're opening the doors of this program so that restaurants all over the country can open their doors again. We start accepting-- we started accepting applications on Monday. Today's Wednesday.
We made it quick and easy to apply. Within the first two days, there were 186,200 applications from all 50 states for help. That's a staggering number. 97,600 of those applications came from businesses owned by women, veterans, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. Now, the applications all have been processed.
Right now, it looks like we'll be able to provide help to about 100,000 restaurants and other eligible businesses. We passed the American Rescue Plan-- we did that, some people said it wasn't needed. This response proves them wrong. It's badly needed.