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RESTAURANT Act of 2020 Aims to Help Small Spots First

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Lauren Drewes Daniels
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In mid-June The Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive (RESTAURANTS) Act of 2020 was introduced in Congress.

The $120 billion revitalization fund, aimed specifically at restaurants, seeks to provide sustained economic relief and, certainly, a possible means to survival for small restaurant owners. In Texas, more than 1.2 million people work in the restaurant industry at more than 43,500 restaurants, eateries, bars, cafes and breweries. Nationally, some 8 million restaurant workers are unemployed. 

Local chef Tiffany Derry recently posted this commercial about the bill with a dire and personal warning about the importance of this legislation:

“I might not get on here and tell you everyday the struggles myself or colleagues are going through because Heck we all are going through something. What I need you to hear me on is that your favorite restaurants might not be here next year. It doesn’t matter how long the lines were, how great the food was or the amount of stars behind their name. The pandemic is threatening to close 85% of independent restaurants, 16 million jobs at risk. See this is not about just The Restaurant this is about all that is connected to us. We need congress to step up and pass the Restaurants Act now!!"

The bill has 161 cosponsors in the House and a companion bill has 27 cosponsors in the Senate, including Sen. John Cornyn. Sen. Chuck Schumer signed on as a cosponsor of the legislation before Congress took its August break.

The $120 billion grant program would be directed specifically to foodservice and drinking establishments that are not publicly traded or part of a chain with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name.  The funds would only be awarded to those with annual revenues less than $1.5 million.

Funding amounts will cover the spread between 2019 revenues and 2020 projected revenues. Eligible expenses would include payroll (up to $100,000), benefits, mortgage, rent, utilities, maintenance supplies, protective gear, cleaning materials, food, debt obligations and other essentials deemed necessary by the secretary of the Treasury. 

During the initial 14 days of the program, priority would be given to “marginalized and underrepresented communities, with a focus on women and minority-owned” businesses.

The National Restaurant Association is hopeful, yet skeptical. In a statement to the Observer, a representative says members feel the bills aren't dead in either house, but both have an uphill battle to be added to the current omnibus bill discussion. It's unlikely the RESTAURANTS Act will move forward as a stand-alone bill, but they hope to see something encompassing the major points soon after lawmakers return from break. 

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