BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The New York State Restaurant Association has been actively lobbying for Congress to authorize more money for the federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a grant program through the Small Business Association.
President and CEO Melissa Fleischut said the state delegation has been very supportive.
"Both our Republican and our Democratic legislators at the federal level have been supportive of replenishing the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. They came at it from sort of different techniques and different ways to do it, but by and large, up and down the entire delegation, they were really supportive of this effort," Fleischut said.
However, facing a Friday deadline to appropriate more money to keep the government running, the final version of the omnibus spending bill does not include any money for the program meant to help restaurants, bars and caterers recoup losses from the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I don't think I could say that this is dead in the water," Fleischut said. "I know there are a lot of senators out there who still support this and want to see it happen, but we really did think this was our best chance so far this year."
She said of the more than 27,000 New York restaurants that applied, roughly 9,000 received funding while about 18,000 are still waiting. Fleischut said in not replenishing the fund, the federal government has created an uneven playing field with most that did receive the grant getting about $280,000.
"If you received the funding, you're probably in a better position to have paid off some debt, caught up with rent payments, utility payments, things like that where those that didn't could still potentially have that debt and be carrying that debt right now," she said.
On top of the bad news at the federal level, the New York state Assembly is not expected to include legislation legalizing the sale of alcohol to-go at restaurants in its one-house budget. Fleischut said the association plans to continue to push hard for it in the coming weeks.
"We do think that this is a significant revenue raiser for the state so we'll continue to push the argument that it should be included in the budget," she said. "Alcohol sales, alcohol's taxed, our sales have sales tax, so there are some revenue components here that we think are important and should be included in the budget."
Fleischut said while the Legislature could pass the bill later in session, the association prefers it in the budget because restaurants need help as soon as possible. NYSRA said even if restaurants appear to be doing better know, they are still dealing with inflation, labor and supply chain issues, past-pandemic costs and were impacted again by the omicron variant.
Its recent survey showed 86% of members felt they were worse off in January 2022 than they were three months earlier.