Federal lawmakers want to create a $120 billion fund to aid small and locally owned restaurants that are struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The measure, which has drawn bipartisan backing, comes as the hospitality industry is facing stiff headwinds for the remainder of the year and as many restaurants have closed permanently.
The sector remains one of the hardest hit amid the pandemic-induced recession and has one of the highet unemployment rates.
Bars and restaurants that are not publicly traded or part of a chain of 20 or more locations would qualify for the aid.
Aid would cover the difference between revenues from 2019 and estimated revenues through the rest of the year. The small restaurants that have taken the brunt of the crisis would be prioritized for aid, creating a two-week window for establishments that earn less than $1.5 million a year.
The bill would also send $60 million in funding for oureached to businesses owned by women, veterans and people of color.
“Nearly every industry has experienced devastating pain as a result of this COVID-19 pandemic, but few have been hit as hard as our small and independent restaurants," Democratic Rep. Paul Tonko said.
“Many of our local establishments have been forced to close temporarily, reinvent their entire operations and lay off workers, and some are facing permanent closure. Our locally owned restaurants offer vibrancy, jobs and economic opportunity for our Capital Region and beyond. We undermine our own efforts to rebuild our economy if we do not deliver immediate and meaningful support to our small restaurateurs, which is why I urge Congress to advance our bipartisan RESTAURANTS Act and deliver a strong rescue for these vital businesses.”
The proposal also has the backing of the restaurant industry groups in New York.
“It’s important that all elected officials recognize how serious the current economic environment is for the restaurant industry and we would like to thank Congressman Paul Tonko for understanding our industry’s plight,” said Melissa Fleischut, the president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association.
“The overwhelming majority of restaurants in New York will be unprofitable for the rest of the year, and the only reasonable path to survival will come from additional financial assistance from the federal government. Countless of our favorite eateries around the State face the very real possibility of shutting down forever to never reopen again. We should be doing all we can to ensure that lifelines exist for these small business owners.”
Restaurants in most areas of the state have relied on a mix of outdoor dining and indoor service, where guest limits are capped for social distancing. New York City, for now, does not allow indoor dining at restaurants.