The House of Representatives passed legislation Thursday that would provide more than $40 billion in aid to restaurants and bars.
The total package is $55 billion, with $42 billion going to food and drink places and $13 billion going to other hard-hit industries. It would also establish oversight and reporting requirements to verify proper grant awarding and use of funds. The measure passed 223-203.
“Independent restaurants are the foundation of our communities,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer said in a statement. “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. This legislation is tailored to fit the unique role restaurants play in our communities.
“Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer recognized Congress did not provide enough money for this program in the first tranche of funding,” he continued. “Now it is up to the Senate to make this legislation the law. Restaurants and bars nationwide can thank the Independent Restaurant Coalition for keeping this issue front and center in Washington DC—this organization is fast becoming a fixture in the political scene.”
The additional money is meant to replenish the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which was quickly depleted last year. When the RRF program opened in 2021, it 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.
“After nearly a year of advocating for RRF replenishment, the momentum of the last few days has been overwhelming for the restaurant industry,” Sean Kennedy, executive vice president for public affairs, said in a statement. “Today’s vote shows that the House recognizes that restaurants are still in crisis and that the need for emergency funding still exists. We appreciate the leadership of Rep. Dean Philips (D-MN) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to provide relief for the 177,000 restaurants who so desperately need and deserve it. We’ll continue our efforts in the Senate for Congress complete the mission of the RRF.”
The Senate is working on its own $48 billion financial aid legislation, which would give $40 billion to restaurants and bars and the remaining $8 billion to gyms, minor league teams, live event venues, buses and ferries, and other businesses hurt by COVID. The bill would increase transparency from the Small Business Administration, enhance auditing requirements to prevent fraud, and remove the 21-day priority for businesses owned by women, veterans, and members of socially and economically disadvantages groups.
Roll Call reported the legislation won’t likely be voted on until Congress returns from its upcoming two-week recess. Also, Sen. Benjamin Carden said the Senate isn’t ready to take up the House legislation, according to the media outlet.
The National Restaurant Association recently 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., according to the media outlet.
A survey from the Association found 46 percent of operators that applied for an RRF grant but did not receive funding believe it’s is unlikely they will stay in business beyond the pandemic if they do not receive more financial aid. Forty-two percent of restaurants that didn’t receive grants are in danger of filing for bankruptcy.
The Association estimated that full replenishment of the RFF would potentially save more than 1.6 jobs currently at risk.