It's a start, but the direct industry aid still isn't there.
On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of legislators unveiled a $908 billion stimulus package that offers more forgivable loans, but no direct aid to the restaurant industry.
The bill includes $288 billion for small businesses, which would include another round of the Paycheck Protection Program, $180 billion to provide a weekly $300 unemployment boost through March, $16 billion for vaccine distribution, COVID testing, and contract tracing, and $160 billion for state and local governments. The bill also includes protections against COVID-related lawsuits, a major sticking point between Republicans that support the provision and Democrats that refuse to include the measure.
The proposal does not include additional $1,200 stimulus checks.
The new piece of legislation also doesn’t have the $120 billion RESTAURANTS Act, which was baked into the House of Representatives’ proposed stimulus package. The provision would establish a $120 billion fund for foodservice or drinking establishments that aren’t publicly traded or part of a chain that includes 20 or more locations under the same name. The funds would provide grants to restaurants and bars and prioritize locations with annual revenues less than $1.5 million.
The Independent Restaurant Coalition, which has fought for the RESTAURANTS Act, said the latest proposal will “not solve anything for the hundreds of thousands of neighborhood restaurants facing permanent closure this winter.”
Kevin Boehm, co-founder of the Coalition and co-founder of Boka Restaurant Group, said the PPP didn’t work for restaurants and bars and noted that more than one in six restaurants have permanently shut down. Additionally, two million restaurant workers are still unemployed.
“Today, the situation for restaurants is worse than it was when PPP was first passed in the Spring– the virus is surging in new communities, limits on indoor dining are back, and colder temperatures are preventing outdoor dining,” Boehm said in a statement. “A few weeks of payroll is not the best solution to ensure our industry can fully reopen and re-employ millions of Americans. This proposal is a Band-Aid on a bullet wound until restaurants and bars can generate more revenue.”
The National Restaurant Association referred to the package as a starting point, noting that it provides several tools mentioned in its “Blueprint for Restaurant Survival,” such as another round of PPP funds and liability protections.
However, the organization said more is still required.
“The restaurant industry has been the hardest hit by the pandemic and recent limitations in dozens of states are pushing operators beyond their limits to survive,” said Sean Kennedy, the Association’s executive vice president for public affairs, in a statement. “We hope that after the holiday, Congress will be ready to discuss industry-specific solutions – including the Senate version of the RESTAURANTS Act – that will help the nation’s second largest private-sector employer contribute to its economic revival in 2021.”
Although it’s unclear how President Donald Trump views the $908 billion proposal, the Commander In Chief has shown support for restaurant aid. Trump recently tweeted, “The restaurant business is being absolutely decimated. Congress should step up and help. Time is of the essence!”
Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin, who was a part of the group that revealed the bill, said there’s no confirmation from either House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that a vote would take place.
According to CNBC, the House and Senate remain at a stalemate with their respective packages. Democrats in the House are proposing a large $2.2 trillion deal while GOP Senators are advocating for a $500 billion bill.