Lawmakers Request Additional $60 Billion in Restaurant Relief Funds
On Thursday, a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation that would put another $60 billion into the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), after more than 200,000 applicants were unable to receive relief during the first round of funding. Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act of 2021 would provide an additional $60 billion worth of relief to America's still-struggling restaurants. The bill was introduced by Senator Krysten Sinema (D-AZ), Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), and Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).
According to Restaurant Business Online, the U.S. Small Business Administration expected that the $28.6 billion in funding available through the RRF would be distributed among 100,000-ish restaurants and food service businesses. The original funding bill prioritized applications from independent businesses that were owned by women, veterans, and BIPOC. In total, more than 372,000 businesses applied for assistance during the first three weeks of the program; satisfying all of those requests would've required an additional $50 billion in funds.
The Small Business Administration has suggested that restaurants that applied for the first round of the RRF but were unable to receive financial help would "automatically" be prioritized for the second round. "When the RRF portal closed in May, small business restaurant owners all wanted to know 'what's next' for their pending applications," Sean Kennedy, executive vice-president of public affairs for the National Restaurant Association, said in a statement. "The introduction of this additional $60 billion in funding not only answers that question but proves once again that Congress understands and supports the foodservice industry."
Although the easing of coronavirus-related closures, capacity restrictions, and other restrictions have helped the restaurant industry, it's not enough to make up for the hardships of the past year-plus. CBS News reports that the restaurant industry added 189,000 jobs nationwide last month, but that employment is still down by 12 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels.
"Our restaurants are now beginning to recover from a year of lost revenue, but many establishments are still hurting and have not been able to access aid for which they are eligible," Sen. Wicker said in a statement. "Replenishing this fund would help restaurants, their staff, and the broader food supply chain as they continue to get back on their feet."
Rep. Blumenauer echoed those sentiments. "While it appears that our work to prioritize restaurants most in need was successful in the first round, the extraordinary demand for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund shows that many more businesses still desperately need help," he said. "We must work quickly to replenish this critical relief program and ensure all local restaurants get the support needed to keep their doors open, pay their staff, and support the industry's trillion-dollar supply chain that impacts every sector of our economy."
Hopefully, Congress finds a way to work together to make this happen. Guy Fieri can't do everything.