WASHINGTON, DC – A bipartisan plan backed by U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) to deliver needed assistance to local restaurants and bars still reeling from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic is advancing through Congress.

Senator Reed is a cosponsor of the RESTAURANTS Act of 2021 (S. 255), which would help independent restaurants, bars, caterers, and small restaurant groups.  A key $25 billion provision of the American Rescue Plan, currently being voted on by Congress, would help direct relief to independent food service or drinking establishments that are not part of major chains.  Under the provision, known as the ‘Restaurant Revitalization Fund,’ eateries showing significant financial losses due to the pandemic could apply for federal grants to cover eligible expenses, such as payroll support, benefits, rent, utilities, building maintenance and construction of outdoor facilities, supplies (including PPE and cleaning materials), food, operational expenses, paid sick leave, debt obligations to suppliers, and other essential expenses.

“Restaurants add so much to our communities and culture.  They are economic force multipliers, bringing people, jobs, and opportunities to the places they serve.  They are worth fighting for and this $25 billion pot of funding will hopefully give more local establishments a fighting chance to survive this pandemic and get through to better days ahead.  Congress is providing a measure of relief, but it certainly doesn’t begin to make these businesses whole,” said Reed.  “I hope soon everyone can gather together at their favorite restaurant to safely share a meal in a packed setting.  Until that day comes, I’ll continue doing everything I can to help these small businesses survive.  Food brings people together.  It brings people to Rhode Island.  Restaurants and the food industry do so much for us.  Of course we must be there for them when it counts.”

Restaurant and food-service sales were down $255 billion from expected levels between March 2020 and January 2021, according to the National Restaurant Association, which also estimates that 2.5 million industry jobs were lost by the end of 2020, as 110,000 restaurants and eateries nationwide closed their doors.

“Restaurants, bars, and shops, arts, and entertainment, tourism, and hotels are all integral components of Rhode Island’s economy.  They help bring visitors and business to our state and generate employment and economic activity.  The American Rescue Plan is going to accelerate economic recovery and provide a much needed, long overdue dose of stability and certainty for Main Street businesses.  And by enhancing vaccine distribution, it will help make it safer for people to return to work, school, travel, and large indoor gatherings like restaurants,” noted Reed.

The American Rescue Plan should help provide an economic lift to the overall economy and help get people back into restaurants by accelerating vaccine distribution; delivering new $1,400 direct payments to most Americans; extending unemployment insurance; and providing aid to state and local governments, a portion of which may be used to help Main Street businesses.

Senator Reed led the successful effort last March to direct $1.25 billion in Coronavirus Relief Funds to the state.

Due in part to this federal funding, Rhode Island was able to commit over $51 million in small-business grants through the Restore Rhode Island program, which offered direct support through grants of up to $30,000 to the state’s small businesses for reopening, adaptation, and fixed costs incurred by businesses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the state, $18 million of this grant funding went to restaurants.  The state also launched a $5 million Take It Outside campaign to help businesses purchase things like heat lamps, tents, tables, chairs, and other equipment for outdoor service.

Rhode Island Commerce reported that in 2020, the state provided over $125 million in direct, pandemic-related financial support to small businesses and non-profits across Rhode Island.

Senator Reed is working to include $350 billion in state and local aid in the American Rescue Plan.  Early estimates indicate Rhode Island could receive about $1.7 billion from this federal funding.  Senator Reed says he hopes these funds will be used to save more lives, livelihoods, small businesses, and communities.

“Look, $25 billion for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund is a big number, but it doesn’t come close to matching the scope of the challenge.  This is about saving people’s jobs, keeping communities vibrant, and accelerating recovery.  If we invest wisely now we can build back stronger and faster and put our country on a better path forward.  The Restaurant Revitalization Fund will generate job opportunities and economic growth,” said Reed.

Senator Reed noted that in addition to the $25 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund, the American Rescue Plan also contains several other key provisions to help small businesses in the hardest-hit communities and business sectors by providing:

  • $15 billion funds Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Advance grants of up to $10,000 per business;
  • $7.25 billion plus up of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that expands eligibility for nonprofits and digital media companies;
  • $1.25 billion for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program;
  • $175 million for Community Navigator pilot program, which is designed to help small businesses in underserved and underbanked communities access the COVID-19 relief resources available to them; and more.

The bipartisan RESTAURANTS Act was introduced by U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Kyrsten Sinema (A-Z), and led in the U.S. House of Representatives by Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).  It proposes a total of $120 billion in federal aid for the restaurant industry.

The RESTAURANTS Act of 2021 is modeled after legislation the authors introduced last year, which Senator Reed also cosponsored, with the new proposal creating a $120 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund to provide relief to food service or drinking establishments that are part of a group of up to 20 facilities.