NORWALK, Conn. (WTNH) — A much-anticipated financial boost is coming to the hospitality sector in Connecticut.

More than 1,700 businesses in the hospitality industry that suffered financial losses amid the COVID-19 pandemic will receive a total of $30 million, Gov. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.) announced Monday. 

Starting this week, eligible owners of restaurants, hotels, entertainment venues, breweries, wineries, travel services, transportation services, and other businesses will receive checks directly from the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services (DRS) that range from $7,500 to $49,999. 

Eligible business owners do not need to apply for the grants as it is determined based on tax return data and location, officials stated. Click here to view the eligibility criteria.

The restaurant industry was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic.

“We were forced to close for three months,” said Carlos Baez, the head chef of El Segundo. “We lost a restaurant in Greenwich.”

“These dollars will go right back to them to offset some of the challenges they face, future challenges with inflation,” said Scott Dolch, president of the Connecticut Restaurant Association.

While Doro Marketplace in West Hartford can get a lunch-hour rush even on a Monday, business is still far from booming.

“The challenge is real,” co-owner Scott Miller said. “The everyday challenge in 2022 versus 2019 is night and day.”

Miller said the labor crisis really took a toll on the business. Their rapid hiring spree came on top of record inflation, driving up their costs, not just food.

“In April, we were very, very desperate,” he said. “We were hiring like crazy. We buy paper products. You can imagine takeout pricing on everything from a paper cup to a bag has gone up 50%.”

As inflation eats away at profits for Connecticut restaurants, another thing hurting them, especially those in cities like Hartford, is fewer employees in the office five days a week. Max Downtown is seeing fewer customers at lunch.

“You don’t have the preponderous of business people you used to have,” said Steven Abrams, co-owner of Max Downtown. “We’re in a 38-story office tower. Prepandemic, there were 3,000 [employees in the building]. Now on a busy day, there are 700. On a not-so-busy day like today, there’s less than 300.”

The incoming state funds will go a long way in rebuilding depleted cash reserves.

“We want to feel we are being supported and that we do have a strong future in the state of Connecticut,” Miller said. 

The Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) oversees the grants, known as the Connecticut Hospitality Industry Support Program.

Existing hospitality businesses must have met several criteria developed by DECD, including a decline of 15% or more in gross receipts when comparing calendar years 2019 to 2021. Grant amounts depend on the amount of loss and the overall level of gross receipts generated by the business.

New hospitality businesses, which the state defines as those that filed tax returns beginning in calendar years 2019, 2020, or 2021, are receiving grants of $7,500, or $15,000 if located in a distressed municipality, as long as they meet the eligibility criteria.

View the eligibility requirements for existing and new businesses and the distribution methodology on the state’s website.