Senate Overwhelmingly Passes Restaurant Relief Program
Early this morning, the Senate narrowly approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package known as the American Rescue Plan. The resolution now heads back to the House for final approval, and when the plan arrives, it will include dedicated relief for America's restaurant industry thanks to a much more bipartisan vote that occurred on Thursday. By a margin of 90 to 10, the Senate approved the inclusion of the Restaurant Rescue Plan, adding what Democrats described as "a dedicated grant relief program for restaurants" of $25 billion.
The plan is reportedly similar to last year's RESTAURANTS Act—a larger, $120 billion restaurant relief plan passed by the House but not voted on by the Senate. That program proposed grants of no more than $10 million based on the difference between revenues pre- and post-pandemic to cover eligible expenses such as payroll, benefits, mortgage, rent, utilities, and other costs, as well as some expenses necessitated by the pandemic itself including things like building outdoor seating and purchasing protective equipment. Willamette Week reported that full details of the new plan should be made public in the coming weeks.
"The Senate made it clear today: it's time to save restaurants and bars," Erika Polmar—the executive director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, a group formed in the wake of the pandemic specifically to advocate to "save restaurants" in these difficult times—said in a statement. "There is undeniable bipartisan support across the country for a dedicated restaurant relief fund. The Senate knows that the only way we can fully recover our economy is to ensure neighborhood restaurants and bars can survive and continue employing over 11 million people. We are grateful to Majority Leader Schumer and Sens. Wicker and Sinema for standing with us and tirelessly advocating for our industry. There is more work to be done to make relief a reality, but today's vote proves that our voices are being heard."
President Biden had already mentioned restaurant relief in announcing the American Rescue Plan last month, with the White House specifically stating that the president was seeking "to work with Congress to make sure that restaurants, bars, and other businesses that have suffered disproportionately have sufficient support to bridge to the recovery."