The website for the Los Angeles County program that began accepting applications Thursday from owners of small restaurants for $30,000 in COVID-19 relief grants crashed within its first hour of operation and has not been accessible since.
Elisa Vasquez, a spokeswomen for the Los Angeles County Development Authority, which is administering the grants, told City News Service that about 6,000 applicants tried to start an account through the portal and it crashed.
Vasquez said only one application has been fully submitted and 315 applications are currently being reviewed.
"Clearly, the need is great and we are working diligently to bring the application back online,'' acting LACDA Executive Director Emilio Salas said. "Restaurant owners and operators should be assured that this grant program is still available and we are committed to supporting our small, local businesses during this difficult time.''
The program for the small-business restaurant owners was to help them economically survive amid the COVID-19 pandemic after the county temporarily closed in-person outdoor dining last week, and officials with the LCDA said the
website crashed due to the "surge'' of applicants.
A message on the website states IT staffers are working to get it back up and running.
"Applications already received will be considered,'' the website reads. "Additional business owners may apply once the system is up and running again. We will notify the public once the system is back online.''
Applications are slated to be accepted through 11:59 p.m. Sunday or when 2,500 applications are received, whichever comes first, and will be funded on a first-come, first-served basis by supervisorial district.
Vasquez said that deadline could be expanded depending on when the application portal is back up and running.
Eligible restaurants for the program must be located within the county, excluding the cities of Los Angeles and Pasadena, and have fewer than 25 employees and no more than five locations total. Pop-up locations and food trucks do not qualify.
A total of roughly $5.6 million will be split equally among the five county supervisorial districts, with priority given to restaurants that were operating outdoor dining on Nov. 24, just before the recent ban took effect.
The funding is intended to be used for working capital needs such as meeting payroll, paying outstanding expenses and funding changes required to stay open during the spread of COVID-19.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who opposed the county's recent decision to temporarily end in-person dining, said restaurants have made "incredible sacrifices'' to align with public safety protocols.
"These restaurants -- the vast majority of which employ fewer than 25 people -- truly represent the small business community that drives the county's economic engine,'' Barger said. "The recent health officer orders to close in-person dining was a devastating blow and as a result, the board identified the need to immediately deploy grant funding to support these impacted small businesses.''
Small-business restaurant owners who apply must demonstrate that their business was impacted by COVID-19 through hardship due to closure and a reduction in revenue.
Owners must also be prepared to provide tax returns from 2018 or 2019, a current business license, a copy of the inspection grade card issued by the Department of Public Health, organizational documents and other information. Applicants notified of a grant will have a maximum of three days to provide missing information.
No restaurant with a less than a C rating from local health officials will be eligible. Businesses that have already received assistance from other Los Angeles County Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act programs are also ineligible.
More information can be found at keeplacountydining.lacda.org or by calling 626-943-3833.