Reps. Wild, Blumenauer Introduce Bipartisan COVID-19 Restaurant Stabilization Plan to Re-Employ 11 Million Workers

June 18, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representative Susan Wild (PA-07), alongside Rep. Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), introduced H.R. 7197, The Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive (RESTAURANTS) Act of 2020. The plan calls for a $120 billion restaurant stabilization grant program designed to help independent restaurants deal with the long-term structural challenges facing the industry due to COVID-19 and ensure they can reemploy 11 million workers.  

 

Wild and Blumenauer introduced this bipartisan legislation alongside Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Annie Kuster (D-NH), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Adam Smith (D-WA), and Peter Welch (D-VT).

 

“Our local restaurants have been devastated by both the COVID-19 health crisis and the resulting economic crisis,” Wild said. “Our restaurants are part of what makes the economy, and culture, of the Greater Lehigh Valley thrive, and without immediate support, the livelihoods of tens of millions of individuals and families remain at risk. For months, I’ve been hearing from local restaurant owners who need strong action now to survive, and this legislation is the first step forward.”

 

Unlike any other industry, restaurants have been uniquely hit by COVID-19. In April alone, 5.5 million restaurant workers lost their jobs, accounting for 27% 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 due to 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.

“America’s 500,000 independent restaurants are a vital piece of every community and neighborhood large and small,” Blumenauer said. “These establishments are also uniquely vulnerable as we face the COVID-19 pandemic. Few industries have been as uniformly ravaged as the food service industry, which is why I am working with a coalition of culinary experts and advocates and pushing my colleagues in Congress to provide support. Local, independent restaurants are the beating heart of our communities. They need relief now.”

“The paycheck protection program for independent restaurants is like building a bridge that doesn’t reach across the water. A stabilization fund will reach the other side and get us through this crisis,” said the Independent Restaurant Coalition. “Even with the vital changes to the PPP program proposed by Congress, there remains a long road ahead before restaurants are back to normal. A dedicated stabilization fund is the only way to ensure restaurants can quickly afford to reopen and re-employ 11 million Americans. It will give restaurant owners the confidence to open their doors again, and assure farmers, fishers, and ranchers who help supply our businesses that our $1 trillion industry will be back sooner than they think. Independent restaurants are forever grateful to Rep. Blumenauer for bringing this idea to life and working across the aisle to champion this necessary relief on Capitol Hill.”

In April, the Independent Restaurant Coalition sent a letter to Congress calling for the creation of a stabilization fund. Recent surveys from the James Beard Foundation found that COVID-19 has forced operators to lay off 91% of the hourly workforce and 70% of salaried employees. Only one in five restaurant owners subjected to state-mandated dine-in shutdowns said they felt confident they could keep their restaurants running. The National Bureau of Economic Research predicts that only 15% of restaurants will be able to stay open if the COVID-19 pandemic lasts six months.

This program would:

  • Be administered by the Department of the Treasury and available to food service or drinking establishments that are not publicly traded or part of a chain with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name;
     
  • Provide grant values to cover the difference between revenues from 2019 and projected revenues through 2020, with a maximum grant of $10 million;
     
  • Not need to be paid back and funding is made available through 2020.

A full summary of the legislation can be found here.

 

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