The bill, which looks likely to pass the Senate, would benefit previous Restaurant Revitalization Fund applicants who received little or no relief the first time around.
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A restaurant server collects plates off of a table
Credit: Marko Geber / Getty Images

Few sectors were hit as hard by the COVID-19 pandemic as the hospitality industry, with restaurants and bar closures serving as a frontline defense against social mixing. And yet, many of these businesses have struggled to get relief funding. Despite multiple iterations, the Paycheck Protection Program proved problematic and controversial. And more recently, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund only provided compensation to about a third of businesses that applied before repeatedly failing to receive congressional approval for additional funding, including being dropped from President Biden's omnibus spending bill.

But today, relief for independent restaurants may be in sight. By a vote of 223 to 203, the House of Representatives has approved a $55 billion spending package that specifically includes $42 billion for applicants who failed to receive money from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund — and to reduce the financial burden, this new program would be at least in part paid for by "funds rescinded, seized, reclaimed, or otherwise returned" from previous pandemic relief spending, according to Roll Call.

A companion bill was introduced on Tuesday in the Senate, and though a vote is yet to take place, the site Restaurant Business reports that the bill likely has enough support to pass.

"This is a big win for our industry, and now it's up to the Senate to finish the job," the Independent Restaurant Coalision tweeted after today's vote.

Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, who co-authored the bill, told Nation's Restaurant News that restaurants and bars wouldn't even have to reapply to finally get their piece of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund pie. "The independent restaurant is the foundation of a livable community… We need to have these institutions to provide a foundation for our neighborhoods," he told the site. "There has been a lot of moving pieces… It shouldn't be this hard, especially as we're paying for this with resources returned from people who were inappropriately compensated… The level of dissension and controversy has been indescribable."

Restaurant Business reports that about 105,000 restaurants received aid from the original Restaurant Revitalization Fund, but about 177,000 applications had to be shelved once the money ran dry after three weeks. Meanwhile, the Independent Restaurant Coalition states that over 80 percent of restaurants that did not receive a Restaurant Revitalization Fund grant reported they are on the verge of permanent closure.