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Politics Bipartisan bill proposes to add $60 billion in restaurant relief funds

01:00  11 june  2021
01:00  11 june  2021 Source:   thehill.com

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A bipartisan group of lawmakers is calling on Congress to provide an additional $60 billion in aid to restaurants and bars after the initial relief fund sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic ran dry.

a person sitting at a table in front of a building: Diners eat outside at a New York City restaurant © Getty Images Diners eat outside at a New York City restaurant

Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) introduced a bill Thursday that would provide an additional $60 billion to the $28.6 billion in restaurant relief funds included in the American Rescue Plan that President Biden signed in March.

"Our restaurants are now beginning to recover from a year of lost revenue, but many establishments are still hurting and have not been able to access aid for which they are eligible," Wicker said in a statement. "Replenishing this fund would help restaurants, their staff, and the broader food supply chain as they continue to get back on their feet."

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Reps. Brain Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) are leading the effort on the House side. Lawmakers said restaurants need more support to survive the pandemic, which has caused more than 90,000 establishments to close their doors, according to the National Restaurant Association.

"When the RRF portal closed in May, small business restaurant owners all wanted to know 'what's next' for their pending applications," Sean Kennedy, the association's VP of public affairs, 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."

Restaurant trade groups aggressively lobbied Democrats to include restaurant aid in their $1.9 trillion relief bill. Restaurants emerged as one of few industries to receive aid that targeted them squarely. The industry secured another legislative victory when eight Democrats, including Sinema, voted against a proposal to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Locally owned restaurants launched the Independent Restaurant Coalition last year to push for $120 billion in relief. The group said additional aid will help nearly 1.5 million unemployed restaurants and bar workers get back on their feet.

"As long as locally owned restaurants and bars are still hurting, we will keep fighting," Erika Polmar, the coalition's executive director, said in a statement. "Refilling the Restaurant Revitalization Fund is the most important thing Congress can do to get their constituents back on their feet and help their communities thrive."

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