Economy

Restaurants, Lawmakers Seek $120B Aid Package

restaurant takeout

The Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) has proposed a $120 billion relief package to prevent further closures and job losses due to COVID-19.

The trade group, founded in March by U.S. chefs and restaurant owners, said it has built a grassroots movement to protect the nation’s 500,000 independent restaurants and millions of restaurant workers impacted by COVID-19.

Dubbed the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, the bipartisan measure sponsored by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat, calls for direct grants administered by the U.S. Treasury Department.

“For the 11 million people across the country employed by independent restaurants and the 5 million workers up and down the food supply and delivery chain who depend on our restaurants, these small businesses cannot fail,” the IRC said in a statement on its website.

The IRC sent a letter to Congress asking for such a program in April and discussed the issue in an industry roundtable with President Donald Trump in May.

“This is a significant part of our economy and it is more at risk than almost any other segment,” Sen. Wicker told The Wall Street Journal.

Wicker and Blumenauer told the Journal they were brought together by the IRC.

The country’s food services sector lost nearly 6 million jobs in March and April as states closed dining rooms to protect staff and patrons from the coronavirus, the report said.

Last month, the industry recovered about 1.4 million of those jobs as some states allowed eateries to reopen with restrictions.

It’s unclear whether the aid could win the support of the House and Senate and get President Donald Trump’s signature.

Wicker and Blumenauer told the newspaper they hope their bipartisan coalition, which includes Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.), along with the restaurant industry’s reach into every congressional district, will win broad support.

The plan would expand assistance restaurants received through the $500 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) which provided nearly $41 billion to accommodation and food services companies, according to the Small Business Administration.

“The PPP was at best a six-month solution…for what is going to be an 18-month problem,” Blumenauer told the WSJ. “If we can get these folks stabilized, stay in business, they can work through it.”

In the latest Order To Eat Tracker, PYMNTS examines how restaurants are optimizing strategies to serve patrons now and post pandemic. It also looks at how the pandemic’s impact on online ordering and other digital tools could affect the restaurant industry’s future.

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