Restaurant groups applaud USD 60 billion funding bill
U.S. foodservice industry organizations praised the introduction of federal legislation on 10 June that would provide USD 60 billion (EUR 49 billion) in additional funding to restaurants that ran into financial distress during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act, introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate, would effectively replenish the USD 60 billion (EUR 49 billion) Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF).
The fund, which went into effect this spring, was helpful, but did not provide enough funding for many restaurant owners, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) and the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) said in press releases.
“This introduction comes at a pivotal moment for the restaurant and bar industry, which has lost over USD 280 billion [EUR 230 billion] and only received USD 28.6 billion [EUR 23 billion] in dedicated RRF relief,” the IRC said. “These businesses are still suffering from the revenue-hampering environment created by the pandemic, as food costs rise, 21 states continue to impose dining restrictions, and 1.46 million restaurant and bar workers remain jobless.”
Refilling the RRF is “the most important thing Congress can do to get their constituents back on their feet and help their communities thrive,” IRC Executive Director Erika Polmar said.
“The pandemic left independent restaurants and bars with rising costs, reluctant customers, and ongoing restrictions on dining from state governments nationwide. These headwinds will be insurmountable for many businesses through no fault of their own,” Polmar said.
Since the onset of the pandemic shutdowns in March 2020, 90,000 restaurants have closed permanently or for long-term stretches, and more than 1.5 million jobs have not been recovered, according to the NRA.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), more than 362,000 applications for a total of USD 75 billion (EUR 62 billion) were received in the three weeks the RRF application portal was open. The average grant application was for just over USD 200,000 (EUR 164,000).
“This means that more than half of the eating and drinking establishments open at the beginning of the pandemic operated with a severe revenue loss in the last year,” NRA said.
While the economy continues to strengthen, NRA said the path to recovery for restaurants remains uncertain. Consumer spending in restaurants in April was still USD 1.4 billion (EUR 1.1 billion) below pre-pandemic levels, and 17 states and territories still have some level of capacity limits.
“Most operators are still well below normal staffing levels and are not on a path to sustained profitability for the year. The challenges facing the restaurant industry have not subsided as the country emerges from the pandemic,” NRA said.
Congress needs to refill the RRF “so I can keep my doors open and create jobs for our city and community,” Nina Compton, an IRC member and chef and owner of Compere Lapin and Bywater American Bistro in New Orleans, Louisiana, said.
“I applied to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund as soon as it opened, but Congress did not allocate enough funding for my business and countless others. I need this relief to keep my businesses afloat and support the farmers, producers, distributors, salesmen, and other suppliers I have worked with for years,” Compton said.
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