Can the RESTAURANTS Act save the industry?
Wednesday, September 09, 2020
The restaurant industry desperately needs help.
Its millions of employees are looking at the RESTAURANTS Act to help them get through the coronavirus pandemic’s economic devastation. Locally owned restaurants across America have joined forces with the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) to lobby for Congress' support on this legislation.
The RESTAURANTS Act
The name of the bill is an acronym for "Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive." The coalition wants a bipartisan bill that's being presented in both the House and the Senate. It's going through Congress as House Resolution 7197 and Senate Resolution 4012.
The restaurant industry, as well as its tertiary industries, need this support to survive. The industry generates a $1 trillion annual boost to the United States' economy. From farmers and fishermen to truck drivers and restaurant workers, it supports tens of millions of employees and their families.
The bill proposes a $120 billion forgivable grant program for restaurants, bars, pubs, and caterers to stay open through 2020. The money could cover payroll, mortgage, rent, utilities, and supplies, among other essentials.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has mostly failed to meet the needs of independent bars and restaurants hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Already, small businesses are closing fast, which could have further devastating effects on supply chains and delivery chains. The RESTAURANTS Act could save the day.
There are conditions, however. It is focused on helping smaller establishments that bring in $1.5 million or less every year. The grant process is need-based instead of being an open grants system. This would provide a veritable checks-and-balances component and ensure that restaurants that need help most get it. Places that are publicly traded or a part of a big chain with 20 or more business locations under the same name will be exempt from the benefits.
The new economic relief program that the bill would bring will expand the eligibility of more businesses to access aid. Along with flexible access to funds and grants, it will also offer the hardest-hit businesses to get some loan forgiveness.
Though restaurants have tried to make the best of the situation, it has been challenging. Limited outdoor seating and takeout service isn't enough to ride out the wave of uncertainty. In California alone, 900,000 restaurant workers have already lost their jobs.
The Independent Restaurant Coalition stated that 85% of independent restaurants might permanently close due to the COVID-19. This would mean that 16 million people will be out of jobs. It would lead to a domino effect on the entire economy. The group also stated that this would disproportionately impact people of color and single mothers.
It is imperative that Congress passes the bill quickly and averts this disaster.
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