Hours after the Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass an amendment to the proposed budget resolution to establish a dedicated restaurant relief fund, the $120 billion RESTAURANTS Act of 2021 was reintroduced to Congress Friday as a bipartisan, bicameral effort from Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.).
The reupped legislation is modeled after the bill introduced last Congressional session (and passed by the House in October) and would create a $120 billion fund to provide relief for foodservice businesses with less than 20 units. Business operators would be able to apply for grants up to $10 million to cover expenses incurred during the pandemic, retroactive to Feb. 15, 2020, and would end eight months after being passed into law, according to the Independent Restaurant Coalition.
“Ensuring the 11 million people employed by restaurants and bars can continue to earn a living is vital to rebuilding our economy after this pandemic," Erika Polmar, executive director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition said in a statement. “The RESTAURANTS Act is a crucial step to putting millions of Americans back to work and stimulating the vast network of local businesses powered by restaurants and bars.”
The reintroduced bill includes some changes from the last version and unifies previous bills from the Senate and House under a common language. One of the changes includes clarification of who is eligible for relief, which now includes franchise owners, the National Restaurant Association clarified.
“The unified RESTAURANTS Act of 2021 is a light at the end of a long, dark winter for independent, chain, and franchise restaurants that have been most impacted by the pandemic,” Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public affairs for the National Restaurant Association, said in a statement. “While many other industries have started to recover, the restaurant industry finished last year in a double-dip recession, and with 2.5 million fewer jobs. These grants will put even the hardest-hit restaurants on the path to economic survival.”
The reintroduced RESTAURANTS Act is separate from the restaurant relief fund that was introduced in the budget resolution amendment proposed by senators Wicker and Sinema and passed by the Senate on Thursday. Although the language of that amendment did not propose a specific number, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office confirmed with both the National Restaurant Association and other media outlets that they intend to include $25 billion for the restaurant recovery fund when it is introduced in the reconciliation bill, though that has not officially been announced yet.
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