RICHMOND, Va. -- Relief will soon be on the way to restaurant owners who have taken a hard financial hit during the pandemic.
"I feel like we made it through the roughest part of the pandemic," Trey Owens, the co-owner of Richmond's Soul Taco, said. "Fingers crossed, knocking on wood, eyes crossed, everything."
Like many businesses, the past year has been one of the most challenging for Soul Taco.
"From losing 75% of business, to the cost of goods almost doubling and tripling, that's a hard pill to swallow," Owens explained.
Another hard pill to swallow, across the country, one in six restaurants is now permanently closed as a result of COVID-19.
"This is just a devastating number," Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D - VA 7th) said. "When you think of the employees, the livelihoods, the dreams."
While she sympathizes with restaurant owners crushed by coronavirus, she remains hopeful that the new Restaurant Revitalization Fund can help them rebound.
"It provides $28.6 billion in direct relief for U.S. restaurants, bars, and other hard-hit food establishments," Rep. Spanberger said.
Money from the fund, which was included in President Joe Biden's COVID-19 relief bill, can be used to cover payroll, utilities, and other operating expenses.
"They're not required to pay the funding back as long as the funds are used to pay for the types of expenses that they otherwise might not be able to," Spanberger, who strongly supported the measure, said.
Rep. Rob Wittman (R - VA 1st) voted against the American Rescue Plan, but said he believed the funds can be used to help restaurants rebuild a financial foundation.
"Things like their capital costs, whether it's debt service or backlog, and paying rent," Rep. Wittman said.
The financial support comes as restaurant owners everywhere face a growing crisis -- a desperate need for workers.
"Right now, we are hiring," Owens said.
He's on the hunt for at least 15 new employees for his Soul Taco locations and pop-up concepts.
It's a fierce competition to win over workers.
"Some of the other restaurants are now kind of like, 'hey look, we pay a living wage,' it's like, you probably should have always been doing that," said Owens.
He said his business model guarantees workers well over $15 per hour.
Owens has applied for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, and whether he utilizes it to help increase staffing, he knows the money will come in handy one way or another.
"I'm telling you anything that the government is putting out right now to help out restaurants, I'm on it," he laughed.
You can click here to apply to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund and learn more about who is eligible and how the funds can be used.
Learn about The Lilly Pad, Richmond's hottest waterfront restaurant