Weeks after Congress apparently closed the door on replenishing the $28.6 Restaurant Revitalization Fund, the House of Representatives is considering separate legislation that would add restaurant aid, according to multiple media outlets.
Punchbowl News reported that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s team discussed ideas during a private meeting on Thursday. One option is targeting concepts that already qualified for RRF funds, but didn’t receive anything last year.
According to Roll Call, this would take the form of a $55 billion bill, comprising $42 billion for restaurants and $13 billion for other industries facing difficulties. The House Rules Committee is scheduled to discuss the bill Tuesday afternoon, and Democratic lawmakers are asking around to see if there’s enough support to pass the legislation.
In mid-March, 44 House Democrats signed a letter asking for relief on behalf of the country’s hardest-hit small businesses, including restaurants. The lawmakers said they are ready to work with Congressional leaders on supplemental legislation to combat COVID, but they would be “hesitant to support such legislation” if it didn’t feature aid for certain small businesses.
“It is not enough to pay lip service to small businesses,” the letter states. “Congress must rise to the occasion with fierce urgency and do everything in our power to maintain the strength of our small business ecosystem.”
Last year, the RRF received in excess of 370,000 applications asking for more than $75 billion. In the end, roughly 101,000 restaurants and bars received $28.57 billion, while 177,000 were left with nothing.
Since the fund’s expiration, legislators have made multiple attempts to replenish aid, including two bills that would’ve added $60 billion, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act and the ENTRÉE Act.
In March, Sen. Benjamin Cardin confirmed that another package featuring up to $48 billion in restaurant relief—formulated by a bipartisan Senate group—wouldn’t be included in a $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill because of objections from GOP leadership.
As lawmakers move on these decisions, the National Restaurant Association wrote a letter to Congressional leaders, stating the industry’s job growth in Q1 was the slowest since 2020. Real sales, which accounts for inflation, were lower in January than each of the 10 months leading up to the pandemic.
From a survey in January, the Association found that 42 percent of restaurants that didn’t get any RRF grants are in danger of filing for bankruptcy and 28 percent have received or anticipate getting an eviction notice.
“With the looming threat of another variant and growing challenges of inflation for both operators and consumers, the economic boost RRF will provide for those 177,000 restaurants would reach far into our communities,” Sean Kennedy, the Associations EVP of public affairs, writes in the letter. “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.”