US House passes USD 42 billion restaurant funding bill
On 7 April, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Relief for Restaurants and Other Hard Hit Small Businesses Act, which would allocate USD 42 billion (EUR 39 billion) for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) and USD 13 billion (EUR 12 billion) for other businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funding bill will now be considered by the U.S. Senate.
The RRF is a USD 28.6 billion (EUR 26 billion) grant program for struggling restaurants and bars that U.S. President Joe Biden signed into law in 2021 as part of the American Rescue Plan.
The Independent Restaurant Coalition and restaurant owners praised the passage of the restaurant funding bill. Even though nearly 300,000 restaurants and bars applied for RRF grants in 2021, only about one in three applicants received relief, the IRC said.
“Nearly 200,000 of these neighborhood businesses have been waiting for more than a year for Congress to deliver the relief they desperately need,” IRC Executive Director Erika Polmar said in a press release. “Throughout the pandemic, these businesses struggled with multiple COVID-19 surges, rising prices, and consumer hesitancy that conspired to decimate their bottom-lines. The relief from this legislation will allow restaurants and bars to pay down the mountains of debt they have accrued, continue to keep their workers employed, and serve their communities in the years to come.”
Polmar is urging the Senate to pass the bill so the aid is delivered to the industry. Restaurant sales in January 2022 remained lower than each of the 10 months leading up to the COVID -19 pandemic, her organization said in a letter. And while the rest of the economy continues to quickly add jobs, restaurant industry job growth in the first quarter of 2022 was at its lowest level since 2020.
“With the looming threat of another variant and growing challenges of inflation for both operators and consumers, the economic boost RRF could provide for those 177,000 restaurants would reach far into our communities,” NRA Executive Vice President of Public Affairs Sean Kennedy said in a press release. “This should be the driving factor in bipartisan support for replenishing the RRF. These restaurants fighting for survival cannot go it alone any longer and should not be treated as a spot in the rear-view mirror of Congress.”
Independent restaurants are the “foundation of our communities,” U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) said in the IRC press release.
“The Restaurant Revitalization Fund was designed to help restaurants deal with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as challenges to the supply chain and workforce,” he said in backing the bill.
New York City restaurants’ nightmare is almost over, IRC Co-Fouder and Crafted Hospitality Owner Tom Colicchio said.
“Business owners in New York City are encouraged by tourists returning and warmer weather affording outdoor dining,” he said. “Yet, restaurants are running on very thin margins that are even slimmer in major metropolitan areas like New York City.”
Photo courtesy of Kits Pix/Shutterstock