How the first week of relief went for restaurants

And how might the Senate and the House add dollars to the RRF?

The application process for the Restaurant Relief Fund (RRF) went a lot smoother than I anticipated. Even though the account registration on the Friday before was an oddity with just an email and password signup, serving more so as a gauge for last Monday’s support staffing, everything else went off without a hitch for the most part.

And here’s why I say for the most part: applying through Square and Toast resulted in never-loading pages on my end and at times, the unfortunate 504 Gateway Timeout Error of doom. Others have found the process to be seamless through the partnered POS providers, which is great for them. In the end, it was perhaps easier for me to file the applications I had through the SBA website, since I can monitor their progress from the SBA portal, as opposed to checking multiple websites.

$2B has already been disbursed to 16 000 businesses, with some having received funds on Tuesday. The quick process from submission to review to approval to disbursement brings forth a sigh of relief. In comparison, the Shuttered Operators Venue Grant, which took months to go live after the Act passing in December and then pausing due to technical errors, is only slated to start fund distribution at the end of this month.

From the White House’s Fact Sheet page, the need for aid has been considerably demonstrated over the first two days with:

  • 186,200 applications received across the country

    • 97,600 applications coming from minority groups

    • 61,700 applications from businesses with under $500,000 in annual pre-pandemic revenue

Unfortunately, not all applications will be funded. President Biden has already stated that the $28.6B will only be able to cover approximately 100 000 businesses. In other words, it is unlikely that any applicants who do not fall into the above sub-bullets will receive any funding this round.

In their many webinars, the SBA has urged everyone to apply quickly and early to show the federal government how much the hospitality industry needs so that they can prioritize replenishing the fund. How the fund gets replenished, though, hasn’t been made entirely clear, although I would suspect that it could be achieved in another round of budget reconciliation or in a subsequent package toward the end of the calendar year (just like what happened with the Paycheck Protection Plan).

How more relief can be funded this calendar year?

Typically, 60 votes are needed to pass a bill in the Senate—reason being that the Senate was designed to be a a place where both parties were forced to work together before making a bill become law. However, there are circumstances where the simple majority (i.e. 51–50 or 50-49) can rule within the Senate, such as with the confirmation of justices and budget reconciliation.

Budget Reconciliation is a process created in the Congressional Budget Act of 1975 with the purpose of making it easier to cut deficits (although the these bills have been used to stimulate the economy in their most recent use cases). The bills within reconciliation package must pass the muster of the Byrd rule whereby the included bills must affect government spending and revenue. The Senate Parliamentarian, a nonpartisan advisor who provides counsel on legislative rules and procedures, determines if the proposed set of bills falls under the scope set forth by reconciliation.

This process is tied to an annual budget with each fiscal starting on October 1. With that in mind, it is not surprising then that reconciliation is only enacted once a year. However, due to Section 304 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Democrats have sought clarification. Section 304 reads as follows:

At any time after the concurrent resolution on the budget for a fiscal year has been agreed to pursuant to section 301, and before the end of such fiscal year, the two Houses may adopt a concurrent resolution on the budget which revises or reaffirms the concurrent resolution on the budget for such fiscal year most recently agreed to.

Subsequently, Democrats asked: “Can you revise a budget resolution to include new reconciliation instructions as a part of that revision?” The Senate Parliamentarian answered “yes”—the interpretation by both Democrats and Republicans is that the Senate can pass at least two reconciliation bills each year.

What potential lies ahead is that the Senate can pass the initial reconciliation bill, amending it to include additional priorities and possibly add instructions for another reconciliation bill. With the wording of Section 304, though, I’d be curious as to whether or not the Democrats would seek to expand upon current priorities, such as the Restaurant Relief Fund, especially given the the demonstrated demand, or if it is to only be used to for additive measures, or if the Democrats would like to see a separate package for this measure.

After all, the Restaurants Act did have initial bipartisan support. And it is possible to pass a separate bill to add more funds, similar to the second round of PPP and its subsequent extension. Although the timing of such is subject to both the House and Senate being able to usher all of it quickly through without a lot of hemming and hawing.

That said, what I’ve noted about applying additional aid as an amendment to the reconciliation package is speculative at best—Section 304 has never been deployed. (And also, this subject matter is out of my wheelhouse). Should Democrats wish to proceed and revise the budget resolution, they have until the end of this fiscal (September 30, 2021) to do so.

Further reading

NYC City Council Introduces Bills to Help Food Delivery Workers

The package focuses on earnings, bathroom access, necessary equipment, and distances traveled

Earlier this week, THE CITY reported that a package of City Council bills from Carlina Rivera (D-Manhattan), Justin Brannan (D-Brooklyn) and Carlos Menchaca (D-Brooklyn) could bring much needed relief and better conditions for food delivery workers.

The package, consisting of four bills, were introduced today (Thursday) to the Committee on Consumer Affairs and Business Licensing, and each focusing on one of four key points: pay minimums, bathroom access, insulated delivery bags, and route limits. These bills are fairly straightforward to parse, as they are proposals to add a new subchapter (Subchapter 8) to Chapter 12 of title 20 of the administrative code of NYC, as opposed to amendments to current laws.

Minimum Per Trip Payments (Int 2294-2021)

While the other bills will see its effects more quickly realized, this one will take almost a year before seeing its efforts bear fruit. Upon passing this bill into law (if it does), the city will have nine months to conduct a study to understand the working conditions for food delivery workers before making recommendations.

In order to get at establishing a method for determining the minimum payment per trip, the following aspects will be considered: “duration and distance of the trip, the mode of transportation used by the worker and the associated expenses of operation, the type of trip, including the number of separate deliveries made along a route, the adequacy of third party delivery worker income considered in relation to expenses”.

Gratuities will not be a part of the minimum payment nor will delivery services have the option to offset minimum payments by way of incorporating tips.

Even though it will be some time before earnings per trip will increase, I feel that studying and taking into account all the factors above will provide the rebuttal that delivery platforms need to hear.

I suspect that consumers will see a rise in costs of having their meals delivered to them as large cities propose making limits on commission fees permanent. But that’s part of the problem, isn’t it? Consumers aren’t necessarily all that aware of how much their one delivery order costs everyone else in the ecosystem—if it’s overly beneficial to one party, then others end up suffering to balance out the equation.

And if you want me to paint a picture of how little a trip can garner now, here you go: it is possible to fall below $5 (and this includes gratuity) per trip with the expectation that I still travel 15+ blocks to make the delivery. And then take the assumption that each trip takes ~20 minutes to complete. At best, I can earn minimum wage in one hour if everything goes smoothly, which isn’t realistic.

Bathroom Facility Access (Int 2298-2021)

It saddens me that we have to propose a bill to make access to bathroom facilities possible for delivery workers. These are people who spend hours in the cold and heat delivering food, serving as a proxy for in-store customers. And to penalize someone that providing the connecting dots in a broken ecosystem, while earning sub-minimum wages for the most part, is deeply troubling.

Council Member Rivera’s bill is a simple quid pro quo: if you are a food service establishment that uses a platform that employees food delivery workers, the food delivery worker should have access to the bathroom when picking up an order for consumer delivery.

The notable exception to this proposal is for establishments whose bathrooms “would require a food delivery worker to walk through such establishment’s kitchen, food preparation or storage area or utensil washing area to access such facility”.

Free Insulated Food Delivery Bags (Int 2288-2021)

As I’ve pointed out in a February post, your mileage may vary when it comes to what you’re equipped with when signing up to work for a delivery platform. In the case of Uber Eats, for instance, couriers are not provided an insulated bag and Reddit members share deals and insights on which bags to purchase. Uber Eats shared a promotion to purchase a bag from their friends at Kinara for $47—but tack on $23.97 in shipping and $6.31 in taxes, and you’re at almost $80 for a work expense that will probably take almost ten trips to pay off.

The language in this proposal gets right to the point by stating that delivery workers who operate a bicycle will be provided an insulated food delivery bag. And more importantly, this food delivery bag will be provided at the expense of the delivery platform, and not the courier.

A business using a bicycle for commercial purposes, where that business is a third-party food delivery service, shall provide at its own expense or ensure the availability of an insulated food delivery bag for each of its bicycle operators. Such business may not require any of its bicycle operators to provide an insulated food delivery bag at such operator’s expense

Should this bill become law, third-party food delivery services will have 120 days to comply before the local law takes effect, so there should be no excuses on not having enough supplies to provide to workers.

Distance/Route Limits (Int 2289-2021)

When I fire up the Uber Driver app, some of the requests for jobs that I’ve received have involved me biking 80+ blocks for less than $20 (and yes, that includes tip). It takes quite some time to filter through the bulk of these long and low paid gigs, especially when they’re given to you often if your “rank” is low (Uber gamifies your status by upgrading you certain tiers if you complete enough deliveries each month).

If I can set the radius that I am willing to go on a date with someone on Hinge, why can’t I set the radius that I am willing to travel for a delivery?

This bill proposes to provide delivery workers the option to specify the maximum distance that they are willing to travel, and in the case of apps like Chowbus (which have a greater delivery radius), to note that they will not accept trips over bridges or tunnels.

More importantly, Council Members Brannan and Menchaca provide protections by stipulating that delivery platforms are not to downgrade the ratings of workers who have set distance limits, decrease the number of trips offered to them, or refuse them access to the platform.

Relevant news

The Restaurant Revitalization Fund will be open for registration beginning at 9AM ET tomorrow (Friday). Applications will be accepted starting Monday, May 3 at noon ET.

As a reminder, during the priority period, while applications will be accepted from all eligible applicants, funding will be approved for priority groups, which I noted in my previous post.

Further reading

Updates from the SBA on the Restaurant Revitalization Fund

And how New York State's $2.1B Excluded Workers Fund works

My first thought in trying to come up with today’s subject line was a longwinded reference to Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” segment. But alas, I don’t think everyone envisions their lives as one long-running television show (like I do).

Where are we at with the relief for restaurants?

On Saturday, the Small Business Administration (SBA) put in writing what they shared in last week’s roundtable with the Independent Restaurant Coalition on their Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) page, as well as a comprehensive and digestible guide and sample application. I have to say that it is great to finally have the updated information on a government page, as opposed to relying on what people have heard through the grapevine.

Updates to the Restaurant Revitalization Grant guidelines

Here’s a quick rundown on what’s been clarified and changed since the Act passed:

  • Timing for the grant’s use-by date has been updated to March 11, 2023

  • Minimum grant is set at $1000 (it has been mentioned in several media outlets, but as I’ve said, it is important to see this figure in writing on the official SBA page)

  • Priority groups are based on self-certification, and the definitions for socially and economically disadvantaged groups have been updated from its cited defintiion in the Act from section 8(a)(4)(A) of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 637(a)(4)(A)) to the following:

    • Socially disadvantaged individuals, as defined by 13 CFR § 124.103, include: Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian Pacific Americans, Subcontinent Asian Americans, and “members of other groups designated from time to time by SBA”

    • Economically disadvantaged individuals, as defined by 13 CFR § 124.104, include those “whose ability to compete in the free enterprise system has been impaired due to diminished capital and credit opportunities as compared to others in the same or similar line of business who are not socially disadvantaged”

  • The 51% majority rule for stakeholders to qualify in a priority group has been adjusted: a mix-and-match additive approach can be applied to account for multiple stakeholders (for example: if you have five stakeholders with equal shares in a restaurant, and three of them identify as socially disadvantaged individuals, the restaurant will now qualify to be in the priority group)

  • Articulated thresholds of grant allocation, based on gross receipts

    • Previously, $5B was carved out for entities with gross receipts during 2019 ≤$500K with the remaining $23.6B available for disbursement “in an equitable manner to eligible entities of different sizes based on annual gross receipts.”

    • The SBA has reworked the previous “set aside” to ensure those most affected will have a better opportunity to access these funds:

      • Same as previous: $5B set aside for applicants with 2019 gross receipts ≤$500K

      • New: $4B set aside for applicants with 2019 gross receipts of $500 001 ≤ $1.5M

      • New: $500M set aside for applicants with 2019 gross receipts ≤$50K

  • If you use one of SBA’s Point-of-Sale (POS) restaurant partners, you will be able to apply directly via that partner

    • These POS vendors will be able to provide the SBA with access to the relevant sales data

    • Mentioned partners include, but are not limited to: Clover, Toast, and Aloha

  • Required documentation

    • IRS Form 4506-T (digital completion on the SBA platform will suffice)

    • Gross receipt documentation, which may include the following:

      • Business tax returns (IRS Forms 1120 or 1120-S)

      • IRS Forms 1040 Schedule C or Schedule F

      • For partnerships: IRS Form 1065 (and K-1s)

      • Bank statements

      • Externally or internally prepared financial statements, such as income statements or profit/loss statements

      • POS reports, including IRS Form 1099-K

When can restaurants apply?

The website (retaurants.sba.gov) has a temporary landing page, advising that applications will open soon. There were hopes previously from the Independent Restaurant Coalition and the SBA that the application process would begin this month, but we are already halfway through April with updates only arriving now—I suspect that we may have to wait until at least mid-May for the website to be set up and tested before it’s ready for prime time.

So while we wait for more news, I’d encourage everyone to collect the necessary documentation (i.e. what was outlined in the above bulleted “required documentation” section) so that you have all your ducks in a row.

The program guide is also an excellent primer that will help square away a lot of the questions that you may have, and I’d suggest familiarizing yourself with it now.

The $2.1B program for Undocumented New Yorkers

Earlier this month, the Excluded Workers Fund was incorporated into New York State’s new $212 billion budget deal, bringing $2.1B in relief for almost 300 000 undocumented New Yorkers. Where it has been estimated that undocumented workers comprise 10% of all restaurant employees in the U.S., and 20%+ of the country’s cooks, this relief package is much needed, especially as the economic fallout from the pandemic has been devastating to people of colour and immigrant communities, as seen in this year-over-year comparison of 2019 Q3 vs. 2020 Q3.

The specifics of the bill (Part EEE) lay out two tiers of relief:

  • Tier 1: up to $15 600 (less an automatic deduction of $780 for taxes), which is equivalent to unemployment at $300/week for the year previous

  • Tier 2: $3200 (less an automatic deduction of $160 for taxes), which is equivalent to the three rounds of federal stimulus payments: $1200, $600, and $1400.

In order to qualify for either tier, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Current resident of New York and have lived in NY before March 27, 2020

  • Lost part or all income after February 23, 2020 due to COVID-19

    • If the breadwinner of your household died or became disabled due to COVID, you will also be eligible

  • Earned <$26 208 in FY2020

While the Tier 1 payment sounds like it will provide a lot of relief to families, The Fiscal Policy Institute estimates that only ~31% of workers will be eligible for the $15 600 benefit. In other words, of the 290 000 undocumented workers, 199 000 will be receiving Tier 2 payments of just $3200. So why is it that so many are unlikely to receive the full amount of aid? Well, it comes down to the required documentation.

In order to qualify for the full benefits, New York residency and a loss of income must be demonstrated. And what’s the easiest way to show income loss? Tax returns—and NYS makes it a point to say tax returns with a valid Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). As a side note, many undocumented immigrants do pay taxes. Per a 2020 report, undocumented immigrants in New York have paid $1.4B into state and federal unemployment insurance over the last decade.

Otherwise, loss of income can be established in several ways:

  • Letter from the employer stating dates of employment

  • 6+ weeks of pay stubs from a six-month period prior to the date that you claim to be eligible for said benefits

  • W-2 or 1099 for FY19 or FY20

  • Wage Theft Prevention Act notice given by the employer

The alternative approach to demonstrating loss of income assumes that the undocumented worker is not paid under the table or that the employer is comfortable with this level of exposure (as there are civil penalties associated with hiring undocumented workers, ranging from $500 to over $20 000). Even with the callout in the bill that discusses keeping these records confidential (which I’ll get to shortly), not only is this a difficult conversation for an undocumented person to raise, but it is also one that can be met dismissively by employers citing unease and shirking their responsibility to employees.

Along with proof of state residency, you must prove your identity via a point system. If you have a non-expired NY driver’s license, ID card, or IDNYC card, these forms of ID are valued at the full set of points needed. However, if you do not possess any of the aforementioned, things can start to get a little tricky. Documented breaks down the point system and approved forms of ID in their guide, which very well can be a possible roadblock if you haven’t renewed your foreign passport in years, have your birth certificate in tow, or possess a valid foreign-issued ID card.

And on top of proving your identity, two of the following documents are needed to demonstrate residency (one before March 27, 2020, and one no earlier than thirty days before the law goes into effect):

  • Utility bill

  • Credit card or bank statement

  • Lease, mortgage, or property tax statement

  • Letter addressed to the applicant from New York City Housing Authority

  • Letter from homeless shelter indicating applicant currently lives there or from a nonprofit organization that provides homeless services

  • Whatever other document the Department of Labor commissioner deems acceptable (you can use the same documents to establish identity and residency, such as a driver’s license to show NY residency prior to March 27, 2020 and to prove identity)

From my perspective, the burden placed here on undocumented folks is rather substantial. Even for me to gather some of these documents when I was on a student or work visa was already not without its own set of challenges. I cannot fathom how much more difficult it is for an undocumented person to acquire some of this paperwork.

That said, for those that do not meet the above requirements for Tier 1, they can still qualify for Tier 2, whose requirements have not yet been announced. While this money stands to help many families and is the largest undocumented worker relief program, it is not an easily accessible one and it may take quite some time for the application process to get under way and then make the funds available.

Will this data be used against undocumented workers?

In short, no.

Written to ensure that undocumented workers have nothing to fear in identifying themselves, the bill makes sure to specifically state that the records shared in this program are not to be used or shared with agencies handling immigration matters. This approach is in stark contrast to what I reviewed last week with regards to the Excelsior Pass, which made no effort at privacy against law enforcement or immigration agencies.

The commissioner of labor shall require any person or entity that receives or has access to records to certify to the commissioner of labor that, before such receipt or access, such person or entity shall not:

(a) use such records or information for civil immigration purposes; or

(b) disclose such records or information to any agency that primarily enforces immigration law or to any employee or agent of any such agency unless such disclosure is pursuant to a cooperative arrangement between city, state and federal agencies which arrangement does not enforce immigration law and which disclosure is limited to the specific records or information being sought pursuant to such arrangement. Violation of such certification shall be a class A misdemeanor.

What are the next steps with this program?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo noted in his April 7th press conference that both the State Comptroller and the AG would “review program to ensure fraud protection and protect tax dollars prior to program implementation.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James said she will review the regulations related to the fund before it goes live, especially as the law mandates her to do so under the operative word “shall”.

On the other hand, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has stated that his office will not be pursuing the option to review prior to disbursement. The law states, with regards to DiNapoli’s office, that they “may, in his or her sole discretion, review, such regulations and any other rules”.

Apart from the fund being passed through in the FY22 state budget, no additional guidance has been provided on when applications will open or when the funds will be disbursed.

P.S. New Jersey is considering a similar move in supporting the undocumented workforce by providing $40M in one-time stimulus payments; however, advocates are saying this amount of money is not enough to cover the almost 500 000 undocumented immigrants in the state, as it would net ~$87 per person should everyone apply and be granted the funds.

Further reading:

One big problem with New York's Excelsior Pass

Here's a hint: privacy protections for undocumented folks

Since my last post, the SBA no longer requires restaurants to register for a SAM.gov account (or need a DUNS number). While we were told that additional guidance should be provided 7–10 days from late March, not much by the way of requirements or plans has been made public. Given that the SVOG (Shuttered Venue Operators Grant), which makes use of SAM.gov) is currently suspended due to tech issues, I am doubtful that Restaurant Revitalization Fund Grant (RRFG) applications will be open this month (as some have projected)—especially if SBA is building a website specific for this process.

I suppose we’ll have to wait and see. In the interim, here is what I meant for last week’s post, but procrastination got the better for me. This week’s actual post on New York’s Excluded Worker’s Fund will be out on Tuesday morning (hopefully).

Excelsior Pass: privacy protections and exposure

The topic of vaccine passports are continuously making the rounds, including this article from Insider that was trending today on Twitter. While the Biden administration will not be mandating a vaccine passport program in the U.S., New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office has been testing a program, based on blockchain and in partnership with IBM, known as the Excelsior Pass. Apart from the discussions of digital segregation that such an app can promote, the lack of privacy protection is overly concerning.

Albert Fox Cahn, Executive Director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, is quick to point out that there is no privacy policy offering protections from law enforcement. In other words, the program does not provide assurance that information would not be access by police departments or by Immigration or Customs Enforcement (ICE).

To get at what Cahn is articulating, let’s take look at the current privacy policies. The program has its own privacy page; however, what it covers is rather limited. With regards to data sharing, it only notes the following:

Your personal health information or records are not shared with anyone. To validate your Pass, the Excelsior Scanner app scans the QR code and receives from it your First Name, Last Name, Date of Birth and Pass Status (valid, invalid, expired).

While it sounds like people are safe privacy-wise with the term “personal health information”, it should be noted that the addition of “health” in between the two words limits coverage. The term “personal information”, carries a broader definition and therefore now has a greater level of exposure, since it was not included in the sharing exemption above.

As an example to highlight the differences between the two terms, personal information can cover the basics of name and address, whereas personal health information could be the vaccination records. Therefore, a case for access for basic personally identifiable information (PII) could be made should police or ICE want to retrieve this data.

The NYS Department of Health Privacy Policy, which the Excelsior Pass makes reference to at the bottom of its webpage, mentions “personal information” access for law enforcement. However, this information is only disclosed in the event that there is unauthorized access or attempted access to NYS’ IT assets. As a result, we do not have precedent or current law to limit law enforcement’s access to PII for the Excelsior Pass.

The New York State Department of Health may also disclose personal information to federal or state law enforcement authorities to enforce its rights against unauthorized access or attempted unauthorized access to the New York State Department of Health's information technology assets.

Even though the Excelsior Pass program is a voluntary one, I have concerns over its use in the private sector where participating venues may tout this app as its preferred method, without considering the implications. Those who are unaware and undocumented may unexpectedly find themselves with heightened legal exposure. Or, if they are aware, then they are unnecessarily saddled with the choice to either find alternative proof or to skip out on activities, therefore furthering social inequities. Neither scenario is a good one, and both are easily avoidable. All it would entail is for Gov. Cuomo’s office to address the handling of personal information and limit its access accordingly for this initiative.

Further reading:

How to prepare for the RESTAURANTS Act's financial assistance program

SBA officials hope for early April for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund rollout

With the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) slated to begin accepting applications on April 8—three months after the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act was passed—there is reasonable cause for concern that the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (i.e. that $28.6B set aside for relief in the RESTAURANTS Act) will not be ready soon enough for the ailing hospitality industry.

However, optimistic guidance was provided in last week’s Senate Small Business Committee hearing. During the questioning period, we were presented with a plan to: a) provide more information on next steps for the program over the next 7–10 days; and b) a rollout of the application portion over 30–45 days. In fast forwarding through the hearing, though, I did not pick up an estimate of when the funding would actually be made available to applicants.

What I did gather from the hearing, though, is that the Small Business Administration (SBA) would like for potential applicants, similar to those applying for SVOG, to ready themselves by registering for the federal government’s System for Award Management (SAM). The rationale for such being that the SBA is building a website to handle these applications and that the data set from SAM would help streamline the platform’s processes. In theory, it makes sense to pull information from a single data source that has been in use for quite some time (more on that later), but in actuality, navigating the process for a SAM.gov registration can be very confusing.

After handling a few of these registrations, I can see why The Independent Restaurant Coalition is advocating that the SBA remove the requirement of obtaining a duns number and the SAM registration. All things considered, though, you should probably take the time to register for SAM (and subsequently Data Universal Numbering System [DUNS]) if you’re a restaurant or bar, since it can take some time for a DUNS number to be issued if you don’t already have one.

So that you have some idea of what you’re filing for, I’ve put together a quick primer on DUNS and SAM registrations.

DUNS: Data Universal Numbering System

Developed by Dun & Bradstreet (D&B), DUNS is nine-digit unique ID, which is used as a way to identify businesses on a location-specific basis. The number is assigned for each physical location of a business, and is free for all businesses—commercial, non-profit or government entities, self-employed individuals, branches and divisions—who are registering with the U.S. federal government for contracts, loans, or grants.

If you’re confused about why you have to register for an identifier with a publicly traded company ($DNB) for federal purposes, don’t worry, I was too. The General Services Administration (GSA), which serves to support the basic functioning of federal agencies, uses a contractor to validate entities for federal contracts (since 1978) and those seeking federal financial assistance (since 2008). D&B has been the contractor of choice for the GSA for over the last three decades. However, three years ago, the GSA issued an RFP to explore new options for entity validation, subsequently awarding the contract to Ernst and Young. For the purposes of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, I would not be concerned about DUNS vs. the new identifier called the SAM Managed Identifier (SAMMI), as the transition date shifted from December 2020 to April 2022.

In some cases, you might already have a DUNS number issued. The first step you should take is to run a quick search, which can be done here. If you find that a DUNS number has already been issued for your business (be sure to make sure your corporation name and address match your tax records), then you can click the button on the right that says “Email D-U-N-S Number”, which will land immediately in your inbox.

Otherwise, you will have to register for an account (be sure to opt for the free option) in order to get a DUNS number. After creating your account, you will see that you need to have a few pieces of information readily available:

  • Business name and contact/location info

  • Year business started

  • Number of employees

  • Business structure and relevant information

    • For instance, if you are a corporation, you will have to list names of all officers/shareholders and their ownership %

  • Two legal documents with business name and address clearly indicated for proof

The D&B website says it should take 1–2 business days to process the request, but I would probably give it a few more days given that a lot of small businesses may be filing for their numbers now.

“The public’s one account for government.”

Before you move on to SAM, you’ll need to first create an account with the government via login.gov. Yes, SAM uses your login.gov credentials, but you have to create your username and password at the main website. Once that’s done, you’ll be good to move onto the next step: registering with SAM.

SAM: System Award Management

SAM is a large database that includes every entity that is registered to do business with or receive financial assistance from the federal government. Launched in July 2012, SAM folded in several legacy systems into its portal, including Central Contractor Registry (CCR), to form one e-procurement system. And just like everything else thus far, there is no fee associated with registering with SAM.

When you log onto sam.gov for the first time with your login.gov credentials, you’ll be asked to create a username and provide details for the Entity Administrator’s individual user account (yes, it’s basically a user profile within the login.gov framework). Please note that whoever’s name and email is listed with the individual user account will be the one listed in the to-be notarized SAM registration letter for the Federal Service Desk.

After creating your SAM user account, you will see in the left rail that there is an option called “Entity Registrations”. Click on it and a sub-menu will unfurl where you will be able to select “Register New Entity”. When prompted for the reason for your application, select the option that says you are only applying for Federal financial assistance opportunities (as opposed to the other one that is for government contracts).

The requested information is pretty straightforward, but you will want to make sure you have the following information on-hand during this process:

  • DUNS number

    • Make sure that the address you input matches with what D&B has on record for you. I spent a good ten minutes getting frustrated that the DUNS number wasn’t being recognized before realizing that the matching is so sensitive that “Street” vs. “St.” are different values for DUNS numbers

  • Start date of your business

  • EIN and most recent filed tax year for the IRS TIN Match (validation of Taxpayer Identification Number and Taxpayer Name)

  • Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) Code: you most likely will not have one. If you have one, put it in; otherwise, one will be assigned to you

  • Banking information for ACH deposits and remittance address in the event that a paper cheque is sent

After submitting your entity registration, over the next few days, you will receive emails that confirm your IRS TIN Match Validation and issue you your CAGE Code. The CAGE Code is yet another unique identifier within government agencies, but is issued by the DoD’s Defense Logistics Agency. The identifier represents your company’s physical address for mailings, payments, and administrative records within the GSA ecosystem.

Remember when I mentioned something about a notarized letter? You can use the template for a single entity or the template for multiple domestic entities, courtesy of the Federal Service Desk. When you’ve made the necessary edits, per the templates’ instructions, including putting this letter on company letterhead, you can go ahead and print out a copy to have it notarized and then scanned for you to submit digitally.

Head to fsd.gov and use your login.gov credentials—this universal login is pretty useful! What you will want to do next is to “Create an Incident” and then make the two key following selections:

  • System Name: SAM

  • Issue Type: Notarized Letter

When you’ve attached your scanned letter and hit the “Submit” button, you are good to go. At this point, I’d like to congratulate you: the registration for SAM is complete!

What’s next?

Well, now we wait.

Hopefully, over the next two weeks, we’ll have more guidance from the SBA.

In the event that the SBA waives the requirement for DUNS and SAM registration (although I highly doubt it), then you’ll have needlessly endured an extra level of angst with me. Otherwise, hopefully, this explanation of the many systems in place and my detailed walkthrough was helpful has readied you for the next step in applying for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

Further reading:

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