WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Jack Reed says that neighborhood restaurants are critical to our communities and economy, and that Congress must act quickly to pass bipartisan legislation before more local eateries are put out of business for good, leaving empty storefronts, laid off workers, and unpaid bills across Main Streets nationwide.

Senator Reed is a cosponsor of the RESTAURANTS Act (S. 4012), which would provide $120 billion in federal aid specifically for independent eateries and caterers that have suffered financial losses due to COVID-19.  Establishments with annual revenues of $1.5 million or less and fewer than 50 employees would be given priority for the federal grants.  Funds would be distributed to eligible recipients based on revenue losses between 2019 and 2020 and could be used to cover payroll up to each worker's annual salary of $100,000, benefits, mortgage, rent, utilities, maintenance, supplies, inventory, debt obligations to suppliers, and other eligible expenses.

According to the National Restaurant Association, the industry is on pace to lose $240 billion by the end of the year.  In April alone, 5.5 million restaurant workers lost their jobs, accounting for 27 percent of total job losses in the month. Without further action from Congress, over 11 million independent restaurant workers are at risk of permanently losing their jobs.

“As fall brings cooler temperatures and a slowdown in outdoor dining, Congress needs to act quickly to help restaurants weather this crisis.  The RESTAURANTS Act would provide targeted relief to help neighborhood restaurants get through this pandemic,” said Senator Reed.  “This is one of many measures that Congress should enact to help families, businesses, and communities stay afloat during this pandemic.”

Social distancing and stay-at-home orders helped contain the spread of the virus and prevented our health system from being overrun, but fighting the pandemic requires an equal effort to deal with the economic fallout.  Today, Rhode Island restaurants can operate indoor dining at two-thirds capacity as long as there are 8 feet between tables and 6 feet between customers.  Bars must stop serving at 11 p.m.  Outdoor dining is allowed with certain restrictions.  But it hasn’t been enough to keep many restaurants from closing up shop permanently.

To ensure the funding is directed to smaller, independently-owned establishments, publicly-traded companies or chains with 20 or more locations are excluded from the grant program.  The bipartisan bill also sets $60 million aside for outreach and engagement to restaurants owned and operated by women, veterans, and people of color to ensure that all eligible restauranteurs are aware of the program and can access the assistance they need.

The Senate bill was introduced by Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).  In addition to Senator Reed, the bill is also cosponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chris Coons (D-DE), Doug Jones (D-AL), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Robert Casey (D-PA), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Edward Markey (D-MA), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI), John Kennedy (R-LA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Angus King (I-ME), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

In addition to the RESTAURANTS Act, Senator Reed has also backed several other measures to help the restaurant industry, including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the RESTART Act, which would create an additional Main Street business relief program offering long-term loans and flexible forgiveness.