Cisneros Co-Sponsors Bipartisan RESTAURANTS Relief Bill

July 21, 2020 by Sara Wilkerson
Rep. Gil Cisneros

WASHINGTON – Rep. Gilbert Cisneros, Jr., D-Calif., is the co-sponsor of a bipartisan bill aimed at providing financial relief for independent, non-chain restaurants within the restaurant industry.

The Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive Act of 2020, shortened as the RESTAURANTS Act of 2020, proposes that the U.S. Treasury set aside $120 billion for a grant program that will help struggling restaurants facing long term challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The $120 billion package is intended to help restaurants stay in business and help re-employ 11 million American workers in the restaurant service industry.

“Independent, local restaurants in the 39th District [of California] and across the country have been hit hard by the coronavirus. Many are facing increased challenges in operating during this health crisis, while some have had to shut down or lay off workers,” Cisneros said in a statement.

“I’ve co-sponsored the bipartisan RESTAURANTS Act to provide the certainty, stability, and relief that our independent, local restaurants need and to keep workers employed,” he continued. 

“As we’re seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases and states halting their reopening process, this restaurant stabilization fund is needed now more than ever.”

The restaurant industry has been impacted severely since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the month of April, 5.5 million restaurant workers lost their jobs, which amounted to nearly 30% of the total job loss in April.

In the June employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in food services has risen by 1.5 million, yet despite these gains, the report said that overall employment in the industry has been “down by 3.1 million since February.”

The restaurant industry has been particularly hard hit due to state and federal regulations of reopenings, social distancing mandates and consumer reluctance to dine out.

The RESTAURANTS Act of 2020 was introduced last month by Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Rep. Earl Bluemenauer, D-Ore.. The Act’s proposed $120 billion package will prioritize grants for marginalized and underrepresented communities, with a focus on women and minority-owned and operated businesses.

In order to be eligible for grants, businesses need to be independently owned and have annual revenues of less than $1.5 million. Additionally, businesses who have already received federal aid via the CARES Act or PPP loans will have a reduced grant amount according to the amounts they have already received.

According to the RESTAURANTS bill, the grants awarded to restaurants can be used for a variety of purposes, including but not limited to payroll costs, mortgages, rent and debt payments, utilities, supplies, and maintenance upkeep and construction of outdoor seating areas.

Proponents of the RESTAURANTS bill include the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC), who have worked in recent months to call on those in Congress and in the White House to create a stabilization fund for independent restaurants.

The IRC recently came out with a report detailing the overall impact of a stabilization fund. If such a fund were to be created, the unemployment rate would be reduced by 2.4% and the economy would grow up to $271 billion.

However, the IRC study also stated that if such a fund were not to be created, “this country risks permanently losing as many as 85% of independent restaurants by the end of the year.”

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