House Democrats have proposed a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill with $120 billion in assistance for small and independently-owned restaurants.

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Restaurants Struggle During Pandemic
Asia Mei, owner of Moonshine 152, poses in her restaurant, which was shut down due to COVID-19, on April 22, 2020.
| Credit: Boston Globe / Contributor/Getty Images

On Monday, House Democrats revealed their second attempt at a coronavirus relief act, a $2.2 trillion package that could be the final attempt at an economic stimulus package before November's presidential election. The 2,152-page bill is a revised, less-expensive version of the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act that they proposed in May. 

"This $2.2 trillion Heroes Act provides the absolutely needed resources to protect lives, livelihoods and the life of our democracy over the coming months," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wrote in a statement. "It includes new funding needed to avert catastrophe for schools, small businesses, restaurants, performance spaces, airline workers and others." 

Pelosi and the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed the original $3.4 trillion HEROES Act in the spring, which would've involved sending out a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks, and it also would've allowed the $600-per-week unemployment benefits to continue through January 2021. That bill was swiftly opposed by the Republican-majority Senate. 

This latest version—which has been dubbed HEROES Act 2.0—is expected to cost $2.2 trillion and, like its predecessor, it involves another round of stimulus check and extending $600-per-week unemployment benefits until January. 

"It has been more than four months since House Democrats sent the GOP Senate $3.4 trillion in desperately needed coronavirus relief grounded in science and data, and Leader [Mitch] McConnell hit the pause button," Pelosi said. "Democrats are making good on our promise to compromise with this updated bill, which is necessary to address the immediate health and economic crisis facing America's working families right now.  We have been able to make critical additions and reduce the cost of the bill by shortening the time covered for now." 

HEROES 2.0 also reportedly includes a $120 billion relief package called the “Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive" (RESTAURANTS) Act, which would provide grants for restaurants, bars, food trucks, and other food-service venues to cover the difference between their 2019 revenues and their estimated revenues for each quarter of 2020. 

And according to Nation's Restaurant News, unlike some of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans that were handed out earlier this year, restaurants or franchises with more than 20 locations would not be eligible for these grants. 

"The revised version of the HEROES Act is the best plan Congress has put forward to protect the livelihoods of the 11 million people employed by independent restaurants across the country,” The Independent Restaurant Coalition said in a statement. 

“Independent restaurants are out of options, and by providing flexible grants based on revenue losses to independent restaurants who need them, Congress can ensure many businesses have a shot at surviving colder weather and getting through the pandemic.”

Some of the other provisions in the updated legislation include: 

  • Providing additional support for small businesses, by improving the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and providing additional loans for "hard-hit businesses." It also pledges "targeted assistance" for the restaurant industry. 
  • Allocating $75 billion for coronavirus testing, contact tracing, and treatment, with a focus on communities of color; it also ensures every American will have access to free coronavirus treatment 
  • Protecting workers by requiring the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to require every workplace to have an implementable "infection control plan" that is based on guidelines issued by the CDC. 
  • Extending the $600-per-week federal unemployment payments through January, and preventing unemployed workers from "exhausting their eligibility" for benefits. These provisions "[provide] a vital safety net for the record number of Americans who are unemployed, including those connected to the gig economy," a summary of the bill's provisions says. 
  • Increasing the maximum allowable SNAP benefit by 15 percent, and providing additional financial support for nutrition programs that "help families put food on the table." It also pledges to provide "targeted support" for farmers and food producers. 

According to Politico, Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin discussed the bill on Monday night and were scheduled to talk again on Tuesday. "“I think we can find our common ground [...] but he has to come back with much more money to get the job done,” Pelosi said during an appearance on MSNBC. “So, I’m hopeful. I’m optimistic.”

If they cannot come to an agreement, then the House Democrats are expected to hold their own vote on the bill later this week. That's likely all that will happen will regard to the bill before Election Day, adding further undue worry for all to those in the restaurant and service industries who are increasingly desperate for help.