Wicker, Sinema, Blumenauer, Fitzpatrick Introduce the RESTAURANTS Act

Bipartisan, Bicameral Proposal Would Support Hard-Hit Independent Restaurants Through New Revitalization Fund

June 18, 2020

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 introduced the Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive (RESTAURANTS) Act of 2020. The legislation would establish a $120 billion revitalization fund to help independent restaurants deal with the long-term structural challenges facing the industry because of COVID-19 and support the reemployment of 11 million workers.

“The coronavirus pandemic continues to threaten millions of jobs supported by America’s small and independent restaurants,” Wicker said. “These small businesses are hurting because of the costs of restocking perishable foods, retooling their operations, and they still cannot operate at full capacity even as the country reopens. The RESTAURANTS Act would save many of these businesses, benefiting their workers and the farmers, fishermen, distributors, and truckers that rely on them.” 

“Arizona restaurants fuel jobs across our state, and they need support now. Establishing a Restaurant Revitalization Fund will help get Arizonans back to work and ensure our local Arizona restaurants can keep their doors open as we continue to fight the ongoing coronavirus pandemic,” said Sinema.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has damaged every sector of the economy, but none more than independent restaurants," said Blumenauer. “Without federal assistance, our corner coffee shops, diners, and cafes may never reopen their doors. I’m delighted to partner with Senator Wicker and restaurant industry leaders to make sure that millions of restaurants and their workers are not left behind."

“Our independent, local restaurants have been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Forced to operate through takeout and delivery only, many family-operated restaurants in my community have lost thousands of dollars in potential income,” said Fitzpatrick. “The mom and pop diner and deli on Main Street are hurting right now. Without immediate help, these local businesses and their hardworking employees will be suffering from the economic impact of this pandemic for years to come, and that is why I am proud to partner with Congressman Blumenauer to provide them with relief through this revitalization fund.”

Restaurants have been uniquely affected by COVID-19. In April alone, 5.5 million restaurant workers lost their jobs, accounting for 27 percent of total job losses in the month. Without further action from Congress, over 11 million independent restaurant workers are at risk of permanently losing their jobs. Restaurants are facing months of massive revenue losses because of government mandated social distancing, rising costs of supplies, new expenses for personal protective equipment, and a decrease in the public’s willingness to dine out.

The legislation is supported by the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC). In April, the group sent a letter to Congress calling for the creation of a revitalization fund. In May, the Independent Restaurant Coalition discussed plans for a restaurant revitalization fund at a meeting with President Trump and senior White House officials.

"Senator Wicker and Representative Blumenauer’s bipartisan Restaurant Revitalization Fund has given America’s 500,000 independent restaurants a day of hope,” said the Independent Restaurant Coalition. “The need for relief for independent restaurants cannot be overstated in a time of so much uncertainty. Independent restaurants that had limited openings are now closing again. Many still wait for Paycheck Protection Program loans and are accumulating more and more debt in the process. This is about more than preserving our most cherished places of celebration and gathering– it’s about bringing a massive economy of over 16 million workers and billions of dollars in spending back to life. The revitalization fund is a smart investment that would contribute more than two dollars to the economy for every one dollar spent and ensure millions of Americans have a shot at keeping their job. If Congress steps up and passes the RESTAURANTS Act today, our independent restaurants will deliver for the economy tomorrow."

The Senate bill also has the support of the National Restaurant Association. “The RESTAURANTS Act provides hope of survival for small business restaurant owners,” said Sean Kennedy, Executive Vice President for Public Affairs at the National Restaurant Association. “This bill is consistent with the legislative call to action we issued four days after restaurants closed on March 14. The work of Senators Wicker and Sinema on this act goes a long way to ensuring that restaurants can continue to welcome everyone to their tables.”

There are over one million restaurant locations in the United States, including bars, independent restaurants, chain restaurants, and social caterers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the restaurant industry has lost over 6.1 million jobs – the most of any industry and double the figure from the next most affected industry

A recent study found that 85 percent of independent restaurants are likely to close by the end of the year if direct aid like the revitalization fund is not provided to the industry. Small independent and franchise restaurants are more at risk of permanently going out of business because of the pandemic because consumer spending at these establishments has been disproportionately affected and they lack the same access to capital markets. In whole, the recovery fund would generate at least $183 billion in primary benefits and $65 billion in secondary benefits – more than double the amount of the proposed grants.

The Senate bill was cosponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Chris Coons, D-Del., and Doug Jones, D-Ala. The House legislation was cosponsored by Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., Dwight Evans, D-Pa., Annie Kuster, D-N.H., Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif, Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, Adam Smith, D-Wash., Peter Welch, D-Vt., and Susan Wild, D-Pa.