COVID legislation could pass without any Republican support.
On Monday, Democratic Congressional leaders announced a budget resolution that includes instructions to create a $25 billion grant for restaurants inside President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill.
The joint resolution, introduced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, is the first step toward enacting a Budget Reconciliation bill, which would allow both the House of Representatives and Senate to pass the COVID bill with a simple majority. If reconciliation is enacted, then the COVID legislation could pass without any GOP support since Democrats control both houses.
“Congress has a responsibility to quickly deliver immediate comprehensive relief to the American people hurting from COVID-19,” said Schumer and Pelosi in a statement. “The cost of inaction is high and growing, and the time for decisive action is now. With this budget resolution, the Democratic Congress is paving the way for the landmark Biden-Harris coronavirus package that will crush the virus and deliver real relief to families and communities in need. We are hopeful that Republicans will work in a bipartisan manner to support assistance for their communities, but the American people cannot afford any more delays and the Congress must act to prevent more needless suffering.”
In the outline, the $25 billion is referred to as “the creation of a dedicated grant relief program for restaurants.” This is similar to the RESTAURANTS Act, which is a $120 billion fund that would be dedicated to small chains and independent operators. In October, the House passed a $2.2 trillion COVID relief package that included the fund, but the bill died in the Senate. The RESTAURANTS Act has the support of 53 senators from both parties, including Vice President Kamala Harris.
The Independent Restaurant Coalition, which has spearheaded the effort to secure direct relief for restaurants, praised the actions of Pelosi and Schumer.
"By proposing a grant program for the industry, Congress is doing everything they can to ensure independent restaurants and bars can continue to employ 11 million people," said the Independent Restaurant Coalition in a statement. "This has been a dark winter for restaurants and bars who are seeing more layoffs and closures than any other industry throughout the pandemic. Millions of people depend on neighborhood restaurants and bars for their livelihood, and a full economic recovery depends on putting them back to work. Funding an independent restaurant revitalization fund would be a ray of hope for so many neighborhood businesses that are on life support this winter. We are grateful to Majority Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi for putting forward a plan that helps the restaurant community get back on their feet."
The food and drink industry lost 372,000 jobs in December, the first reduction since restaurants lost around 6 million in March and April, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In December, 9.8 million workers were on payroll compared to 12.2 million in the year-ago period. The industry also finished 2020 with total sales $240 billion below expectations set by the National Restaurant Association prior to the pandemic.
“The announcement by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of a $25 billion restaurant recovery fund has the potential to be a game-changer for the tens of thousands of restaurants on the verge of closing,” said Sean Kennedy, the National Restaurant Association’s EVP of public affairs, in a statement. “2020 ended with the industry slipping into a double-dip recession and losing nearly 400,000 jobs, highlighting the unique challenges restaurant owners and our employees are still facing. We look forward to seeing the full proposal from congressional leaders and appreciate that our industry remains in the forefront of discussion.”