Restaurant Relief Has Been Dropped from the Omnibus Spending Bill

At least two senators say they will pursue additional legislation to provide additional funds to the industry.

A restaurant with chairs stacked on the tables
Photo: Owaki / Kulla / Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected business across the board. But as an industry that depends on face-to-face interaction in close quarters, the hospitality industry especially has faced the brunt of pandemic restrictions. And yet, many in the industry don't believe they've received the support from the government they deserve.

Granted, the restaurant industry has been eligible for Paycheck Protection Loans and Restaurant Relief Funds, but as one of the frontlines dealing with the coronavirus, many industry leaders have advocated for even more financial support. If that happens, it apparently won't be occurring anytime soon: As Nation's Restaurant News reported, additional restaurant relief has been eliminated from the omnibus bill Congress is set to vote on this Friday.

"Today's news that Congress is walking away from the RRF is a gut punch to the 177,000 restaurants who now have some incredibly difficult decisions ahead of them," Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of the National Restaurant Association, said in a statement. "The pandemic is over for much of the economy, but small business restaurant owners have taken two steps back with every variant. We will continue to pursue an all-of-the-above agenda to rebuild and advance the nation's second-largest private employer."

For its part, all is not necessarily lost for restaurant relief. There's support for a separate bill to help restaurants in the near future. "I've talked to [New York senator Charles Schumer] already. If we can bring it to the floor as a separate bill, we might do that. We're not giving up," Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland was quoted as saying.

But according to the Independent Restaurant Coalition, relief cannot come soon enough. Their data suggests that over 80 percent of restaurants that did not receive an RRF grant reported they are on the verge of permanent closure. About half of the restaurants they surveyed in January that did not receive RRF grants were forced to lay off workers, and over 40 percent of businesses that did not receive RRF grants are in danger of filing for or have filed for bankruptcy, compared to just 20 percent that received RRF grants.

"We are beyond disappointed that this massive government funding proposal ignores the needs of 177,300 neighborhood restaurants and bars impacted by the pandemic," Erika Polmar, Executive Director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, said in a statement. "Thousands of neighborhood restaurants are going to close as a result of Congressional inaction on the Restaurant Revitalization Fund."

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