Nashua Telegraph: Coalition introduces bill to help restaurants

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-2, helped introduce The Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive Act with a bipartisan coalition of nine of her House colleagues. The bill would create a $120 billion restaurant stabilization grant program designed to help independent restaurants deal with the long-term structural challenges facing the industry due to COVID-19 and ensure they can reemploy 11 million workers. Kuster joined Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore, Dwight Evans, D-Pa., Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, Adam Smith, D-Wash., Peter Welch, D-Vt., and Susan Wild, D-Pa., in introducing the legislation.

Restaurants have been uniquely devastated by COVID-19. In April alone, 5.5 million restaurant workers lost their jobs, accounting for 27% of total job losses in the month. Without further action from Congress, more than 11 million independent restaurant workers are at risk of permanently losing their jobs. Restaurants are facing months of massive revenue losses due to social distancing requirements, rising costs of supplies, new expenses for personal protective equipment, and a decrease in the public’s willingness to dine out.

“While some Granite State restaurants have been able to expand take-out options and outdoor seating during the COVID-19 pandemic, the financial impact of this crisis has been devastating for many of these small businesses,” Kuster said. “I’m proud to help introduce this bipartisan legislation to provide a lifeline to the restaurant industry and support New Hampshire restaurant owners and employees through this unprecedented crisis.”

“America’s 500,000 independent restaurants are a vital piece of every community and neighborhood large and small,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer. “These establishments are also uniquely vulnerable as we face the COVID-19 pandemic. Few industries have been as uniformly ravaged as the food service industry, which is why I am working with a coalition of culinary experts and advocates and pushing my colleagues in Congress to provide support. Local, independent restaurants are the beating heart of our communities. They need

relief now.”

“Our independent, local restaurants have been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Forced to operate through takeout and delivery only, many family-operated restaurants in my community have lost thousands of dollars in potential income,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “The mom and pop diner and deli on Main Street are hurting right now. Without immediate help, these local businesses and their hardworking employees will be suffering from the economic impact of this pandemic for years to come, and that is why I am proud to partner with Congressman Blumenauer to provide them with relief through this revitalization fund.

Rep. Dwight Evans said, “Many Americans tend to think of cheesesteaks when they think of Philadelphia, but the truth is my city has a wide-ranging, vibrant restaurant sector that includes so much more, makes the city a great place to live and provides thousands of jobs that are vital to neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia. I’m pleased to co-sponsor this bill to help independent restaurants and their employees.”

“With the limitations of SBA’s existing COVID-19 loan programs, Congress needs to step up and support small restaurants which are fighting to survive during this unparalleled economic downturn,” said Rep. Chellie Pingree. “The RESTAURANT Act would create a $120 billion grant program for non-chain restaurants to stay afloat and help restaurant workers to stay connected to their jobs. Small restaurants in Maine contribute more than $3 billion to our economy and employ more than 40,000 people. We must ensure they have adequate resources to weather this crisis.”

“America’s restaurants support local jobs, farms and countless suppliers in every community across the country,” said Rep. Peter Welch. “The Paycheck Protection Program does not fit the needs of the many restaurants hit hard by this pandemic, who have closed for months and are just now opening at greatly reduced capacity. This bill is a critical step to ensure our treasured local establishments are able to survive this pandemic to serve their neighbors again soon.”

“Our local restaurants have been devastated by both the COVID-19 health crisis and the resulting economic crisis,” said Rep. Wild. “Our restaurants are part of what makes the economy, and culture, of the Greater Lehigh Valley thrive, and without immediate support, the livelihoods of tens of millions of individuals and families remain at risk. For months, I’ve been hearing from local restaurant owners who need strong action now to survive, and this legislation is the first step forward.”

The RESTAURANTS Act has the support of the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC). In April, the group sent a letter to Congress calling for the creation of a stabilization fund. In May, the Independent Restaurant Coalition discussed plans for a restaurant stabilization fund at a meeting with President Trump and senior White House officials.

“Representative Blumenauer and Senator Wicker’s bipartisan Restaurant Revitalization Fund has given America’s 500,000 independent restaurants a day of hope,” said the Independent Restaurant Coalition. “The need for relief for independent restaurants cannot be overstated in a time of so much uncertainty. Independent restaurants that had limited openings are now closing again. Many still wait for Paycheck Protection Program loans and are accumulating more and more debt in the process. This is about more than preserving our most cherished places of celebration and gathering- it’s about bringing a massive economy of over 16 million workers and billions of dollars in spending back to life. The revitalization fund is a smart investment that would contribute more than two dollars to the economy for every one dollar spent and ensure millions of Americans have a shot at keeping their job. If Congress steps up and passes the RESTAURANTS Act today, our independent restaurants will deliver for the economy tomorrow.”

There are approximately 500,000 independent restaurants in the United States, which account for approximately 76% of the 658,000 total restaurants and bars in the United States. According to a recent study, about 5.9 million restaurant jobs (an estimated 4.5 million of which are from independent restaurants) have vanished within a matter of weeks- the most of any industry and nearly double the figure from the next most affected industry.

In addition, the study found that 85% of independent restaurants are likely to close by the end of the year if direct aid like the stabilization fund is not provided to the industry. Independent restaurants are more at risk of permanently going out of business due to the pandemic because consumer spending at these establishments has been disproportionately affected and they lack the same access to capital markets. In whole, the Stabilization Fund will generate at least $183 billion in primary benefits and $65 billion in secondary benefits-more than double the amount of the proposed grants.


Originally published here.