Congress introduced legislation Thursday to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund with a $60 billion second round of restaurant relief, after the U.S. Small Business Administration received requests for more than triple the allocated funds the first time around.
The Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act of 2021 would more than double the original $28.6 billion of relief for restaurants and was introduced as a bipartisan effort again by Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-PA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).
“While it appears that our work to prioritize restaurants most in need was successful in the first round, the extraordinary demand for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund shows that many more businesses still desperately need help,” Blumenauer said in a statement. “We must work quickly to replenish this critical relief program and ensure all local restaurants get the support needed to keep their doors open, pay their staff, and support the industry’s trillion-dollar supply chain that impacts every sector of our economy.”
When funds were distributed to restaurants in the first round of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund in May, women, veterans and people of economically and socially disadvantaged groups were prioritized for the first 21 days. Although this was later challenged in court, the funds had already mostly been distributed.
Initially President Biden estimated that about 100,000 businesses would be able to be helped in this first wave of funding, but 147,000 applicants from the prioritization group requested funds for more than the initial $28.6 billion in the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. In total, more than 372,000 businesses applied during the first three weeks that the initial RRF application portal was open, requesting more than $76 billion in funds.
“My restaurant will not survive the year if Congress does not refill the Restaurant Revitalization Fund,” Antwan Smalls, co-owner of My Three Sons in Charleston, S.C. told the Independent Restaurant Coalition. “Even though customers are starting to dine out once more, a few weeks of business as usual does not make up for 15 months of lost revenue. I can’t pay my bills with money I don’t have. The Restaurant Revitalization Fund provided me a ray of hope, but now that all funds have been exhausted, I fear that I will not receive the relief I need to keep my small business open.”
The National Restaurant Association will be starting a grassroots campaign to help drum up bipartisan support for the second iteration of the bill, and the bill is also endorsed by the Independent Restaurant Coalition and the James Beard Foundation.
“When the RRF portal closed in May, small business restaurant owners all wanted to know ‘what’s next’ for their pending applications,” Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public affairs for the National Restaurant Association said in a statement. “The introduction of this additional $60 billion in funding not only answers that question but proves once again that Congress understands and supports the foodservice industry.”
Since the pandemic began, more than 90,000 restaurants have permanently closed, and the industry suffered one-quarter of the total job losses in the nation. At least 20 states still have COVID-era restrictions in place for restaurants.
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