WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Representatives Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., today led a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to include a $120 billion revitalization fund for small and independent restaurants in any future COVID-19 relief package or year-end spending bill. The proposal, which has earned the support of 50 senators and passed the U.S. House in October, was introduced in June as the RESTAURANTS Act of 2020.
In their letter, the legislators cited a wave of new restrictions on restaurants as coronavirus cases surge across the nation.
“For the second time this year, restaurants and bars are having to limit operations or close their doors completely, raising concerns about their ability to survive the long winter ahead. They need quick relief to keep their workers employed and hold onto their businesses. Congress needs to act speedily and pass the RESTAURANTS Act to help save local restaurants across the country and the millions of workers they employ,” the legislators wrote.
“We urge you to pass the RESTAURANTS Act quickly as part of a COVID-19 relief bill or a year-end spending bill. We look forward to partnering with you to save local restaurants across America.”
In addition to Wicker, Sinema, Blumenauer, and Fitzpatrick, the letter is signed by 159 other legislators, totaling 25 senators and 138 members of the House.
Read the full text of the letter here and below.
Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, and Leader McCarthy:
America faces its most difficult phase in the fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). COVID-19 case numbers are spiking across the nation, with more than one in 400 Americans testing positive in the last week alone. This unprecedented increase has prompted a wave of new restrictions ranging from nighttime closures and restrictions on indoor dining in New York, North Dakota, and Maryland to takeout-only in Oregon and stay-at-home orders in New Mexico. For the second time this year, restaurants and bars are having to limit operations or close their doors completely, raising concerns about their ability to survive the long winter ahead. They need quick relief to keep their workers employed and hold onto their businesses. Congress needs to act speedily and pass the RESTAURANTS Act to help save local restaurants across the country and the millions of workers they employ.
The restaurant industry has been uniquely devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly one in four jobs lost from the pandemic were those of restaurant and bar workers. The food and beverage industry is still down 2.3 million jobs since the pandemic began, a number that is sure to rise with increasing infection rates and new restrictions. Despite bearing the brunt of this economic crisis, independent restaurants have received no directly tailored federal aid. Many independent restaurant owners did not benefit from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) because the program did not match their business model or needs.
The restaurant sector is the second-largest private employer after health care, and for countless Americans they provide the first opportunity for a job. These businesses are the beating heart of communities across America, but the pandemic puts their survival in jeopardy. This threat affects restaurants and their employees and every other link in the $1 trillion restaurant supply chain. The food supply chain touches every corner of the country and supports tens of millions of livelihoods, including farm workers, fishermen, and truck drivers. A new round of restaurant closures is likely to have dire effects on the entire food supply chain.
The RESTAURANTS Act would create a restaurant revitalization fund that can be used for a wide range of expenses, including payroll and benefits, food, utilities, rent, maintenance, and supplies. This legislation has gained bipartisan support in Congress, as well as backing from restauranteurs and a large coalition of industries that rely on restaurants. It passed the House of Representatives on October 1, 2020, in H.R. 925 (Section 607, Division O). A June 2020 study on the legislation found it would generate at least $183 billion in primary benefits and $65 billion in secondary benefits – more than double the amount of the fund itself. This type of economic multiplier is needed now more than ever.
We urge you to pass the RESTAURANTS Act quickly as part of a COVID-19 relief bill or a year-end spending bill. We look forward to partnering with you to save local restaurants across America.