The bill reportedly won't be voted on until after Congress' two-week recess.
The Senate is revisiting a $48 billion financial aid package that would allocate a majority of its dollars toward replenishing the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
The Small Business COVID Relief Act, introduced Tuesday, would add $40 billion to the RRF, which lawmakers say would be enough funding for all applicants that didn't receive grants 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.
Other key measures of the bill include:
- Contingencies in case the available funding is not enough to give full grants to all eligible candidates
- Removes the 21-day priority period for businesses owned by women, veterans, and members of socially and economically disadvantages groups
- Enhanced auditing requirements to prevent fraud
- Transparency and customer service guidelines to ensure the Small Business Administration shares information
- Eliminates entities that are no longer operating or don't plan to reopen within six months
The remaining $8 billion would be used to support gyms, minor league teams, live event venues, buses and ferries, and other businesses disproportionately hurt by COVID.
Earlier in March, Sen. Benjamin Cardin confirmed that a bill featuring up to $48 billion in restaurant relief wouldn't make it into the $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill because of objections from GOP leadership. The Senate is now reviving financial aid efforts with the new standalone legislation. According to Roll Call, the bill wouldn't be voted on until after Congress' upcoming two-week recess.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is moving forward with its own version—a $55 billion bill, including $42 billion for restaurants and $13 billion for other industries. However, Cardin said the Senate isn't likely to take up the bill if it's voted on and passed in the House, Roll Call reported.
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.