After a grueling 24-hour ‘vote-a-rama’ on the Senate floor, President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package was approved by the Senate. It notably includes a $28.6 billion grant specifically for the hospitality industry. The term ‘vote-a-rama’ refers to a political practice in which the minority party (currently Republicans) forces a number of amendments to a bill.
Democrats eventually secured a narrow victory, and the bill passed 50-49. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters, “It’s a great day for this country,” and former presidential candidate and Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders remarked that this was, “the most significant piece of legislation to benefit working families in the modern history of this country.”
The economic relief package will provide $1,400 stimulus checks to those making less than $75,000 a year, a $300 weekly boost for those on unemployment through September 6, funding for Covid-19 testing and vaccine distributions, and rental assistance for those in need.
It also includes a $28.6 billion grant for the hospitality industry. The grant is modelled after the RESTAURANTS Act, which was first proposed by the Independent Restaurant Coalition, a grassroots industry organization, in April 2020.
It is the first federal grant program specifically intended to help restaurants and bars since the pandemic began in March, 2020.
Over that time, over 110,000 venues have permanently closed, and the industry has lost over $219 billion in sales. According to the latest Department of Labor report, over two million service industry workers are still unemployed. Women, single mothers, immigrants, the formerly incarcerated and people of color are uniquely impacted by this employment crisis.
The hospitality-focused relief program is specifically intended to support independently owned businesses and their employees. The hospitality sector employs almost 17 million people directly, and 5 million more through the supply chain.
“This relief fund gives hope to the entire independent restaurant and bar community,” said Tom Colicchio, Owner of Crafted Hospitality in New York and Co-Founder of the Independent Restaurant Coalition. “Line cooks, managers, bartenders and operators from coffee shops, food trucks, bakeries and bistros can rest a bit more soundly tonight knowing help is on the way.”
The new program provides eligible businesses debt-free support in the form of grants, intended to make up the equivalent to annual revenue loss from 2019 and 2020. These grants can cover any eligible expenses, including:
- Payroll (excluding employee compensation exceeding $100,000/year), employee benefits, and paid sick leave
- Mortgage, rent, and utilities
- Outdoor seating construction
- Supplies, protective equipment, and cleaning materials
- Operational expenses
- Debt obligations to suppliers
Before anything is official, the bill must return to the House of Representatives for approval. The House will vote on the updated bill, and if there are no further amendments it will pass to the Executive Office for final approval. Experts believe President Biden will sign off on it before March 14, when existing unemployment aid programs expire.
For more information about the relief package and its stipulations, visit saverestaurants.com.