Politics Bipartisan bill proposes to add $60 billion in restaurant relief funds
Bipartisan infrastructure negotiations face progressive backlash in Congress
Congressional Democrats are still split on how to proceed with President Biden’s infrastructure plan, with left-leaning members threatening to torpedo any bipartisan agreement that doesn’t address progressive priorities. After the White House called off negotiations with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., last week because the two sides could not find common ground on a dollar amount for the package, attention turned to a bipartisan group of senators including Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Mitt Romney, R-Utah. The particulars of their $1.
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.
Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)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."
After 1st round fails, where do infrastructure talks stand?
Almost as soon as infrastructure talks died, they were resurrected under new leadership. © Samuel Corum/Getty Images While President Joe Biden jets off to Europe to attend to international matters, a coalition of Senate Democrats and Republicans are huddled up at the Capitol charting what they hope will be a new path forward on infrastructure. New negotiations bring a whole new host of questions about how a deal on what has become a politically divisive package might be struck and what that deal might look like. Wait. Aren't infrastructure talks over? Think again.
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."
Bipartisan talks sow division among Democrats .
Democratic lawmakers are splitting apart over whether it makes sense to continue negotiating with Republicans on a scaled-down infrastructure package after President Biden ended talks with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the lead Republican negotiator on infrastructure. A new group of Senate negotiators is looking to pick up where Biden and Capito left off, but that's not welcome news to progressive Democrats, who think too much time has already been spent trying to reach an elusive bipartisan infrastructure deal.