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By Rep. Mike Levin

South Orange County residents know the value of the small businesses that anchor our community. Locals and tourists alike come together to build memories in the many restaurants, recreational venues, and other locally owned establishments that line our streets. Amidst a pandemic that threatened many of these small businesses, federal relief has enabled many to keep their lights on.

By now, you’ve probably heard of the American Rescue Plan, a comprehensive federal effort to address the public health and economic crises we face. What you may not have heard is how this legislation is making a difference for the local establishments we cherish. The American Rescue Plan not only provided a lifeline to help everyday people struggling to make ends meet, but it also delivered crucial support to local small businesses through the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant has brought nearly $19 million in relief for 28 venues in our district. Among the local recipients is the historic Mission San Juan Capistrano.

Founded in 1776, this “Jewel of the Missions” has weathered storms for centuries, both physical and economic. As the pandemic brought economic activity to a crawl at most gathering places, the Mission fell well short of its 300,000 average annual visitors, missing out on substantial revenue. Fortunately, a federal grant has brought much-needed relief to pay for maintenance and other costs at the 246-year-old venue.

Local restaurants, bars, and other dining establishments have also benefited greatly from American Rescue Plan funding. The Restaurant Revitalization Fund has supported more than 100,000 businesses across the country, including many great establishments in South OC. Among these are Tamarindo Restaurant and The Fuel Shack in San Clemente, and It’s All About the Cake in Dana Point. The fund has helped these business owners keep employees on payroll and cover other operating expenses.

While I’m thrilled to see these programs serve our community, I also recognize that not all eligible businesses have received relief. That’s why I am supporting the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act, which would enable thousands of more restaurants access to an additional $60 billion in critical federal assistance.

Like so many successful businesses across the country, our local establishments took a hit during COVID-19 through no fault of their own. Because of the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant and Restaurant Revitalization Fund programs, we have been able to help many of these local business owners stay alive and thrive.

These small businesses help keep our economy turning and the spirit of entrepreneurship alive. I encourage all residents to find time to safely support our local businesses—I know I will!

U.S. Representative Mike Levin represents the 49th Congressional District, which includes the South Orange County cities of Dana Point, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano. He was reelected for a second term in 2020 and resides in San Juan Capistrano with his wife and two children.

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