The House of Representatives' latest federal aid proposal will now include the bipartisan, bicameral RESTAURANTS Act as part of the $3 trillion stimulus package.
"Congress must quickly pass this COVID-19 relief proposal and give America's 500,000 independent restaurants a fighting chance to survive," the Independent Restaurant Coalition said in a press release. "By including the RESTAURANTS Act, the revised version of the HEROES Act (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act) is the best plan Congress has put forward to protect the livelihoods of the 11 million people employed by independent restaurants across the country. Independent restaurants are out of options, and by providing flexible grants based on revenue losses to independent restaurants who need them, Congress can ensure many businesses have a shot at surviving colder weather and getting through the pandemic."
What will it do?
If signed into law, the bipartisan bill would establish a $120 billion grant program for independent restaurants and bars.
As of time of publication, the RESTAURANTS Act has secured 203 House cosponsors and 40 Senate cosponsors, with 13 of those signatures coming in the past month alone. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., originally introduced the act in June alongside Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.
The grant program would be run by the U.S. Treasury, and funds would cover costs such as payroll, rent, supplies and PPE.
Whom will it help?
"Eligible establishments include restaurants, food stands, food trucks, food carts, caterers, saloons, inns, taverns, and bars. In its first two weeks of operation, grants would be prioritized for establishments owned by members of marginalized and underrepresented communities, with a focus on women and minority-owned and operated entities," the Independent Restaurant Coalition explained. "Priority would also be given to establishments with annual revenues of less than $1,500,000."
The IRC has continued to fight over the last six months for the industry that before the pandemic was on track to make $881 billion in 2020 sales, and has instead been uniformly ravaged due to the outbreak of COVID-19. For comparison, industry total sales in August were nearly $11 billion lower than the pre-coronavirus levels posted in January and February, according to the National Restaurant Association.
The uniquely vulnerable industry was one of the first to help local communities when the pandemic hit. Independent restaurants that were forced to close or pivot into takeout or delivery hubs also helped feed first responders and essential health care workers, donating meals throughout communities while adapting to new health and safety procedures with fewer staffers.
Now, industry leaders continue pushing full steam ahead with the same drive and tenacity to get a tangible plan in place.
The IRC, which represents the owners, employees and suppliers who makeup the fabric of the restaurant industry, was formed to affect legislative change through a united voice of local restaurant and bar owners around the country reeling from the economic shutdown as a result of the pandemic.