Blumenauer Leads 100+ Bipartisan Members of Congress in Urging Relief for Independent Restaurants

July 30, 2020
Press Release

A group of 106 bipartisan lawmakers, led by U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), is urging House Leadership to include a $120 billion restaurant revitalization fund in the next coronavirus relief package for independent restaurants who have been impacted by the pandemic.

Despite some restaurants and bars slowly reopening, data last month from the U.S. Department of Labor showed that employment in food services and drinking places is down 3.1 million people since February. Lawmakers fear that many of these jobs will never return and some reopened restaurants may not be able to stay open without federal assistance.

The Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed To Survive (RESTAURANTS) Act – which lawmakers are pushing to be included in the upcoming COVID relief package – would create a $120 billion restaurant revitalization fund to make independent restaurants whole through the end of 2020 by providing assistance for operating costs such as payroll and benefits, food, utilities, rent, and more.

“Restaurants are the beating heart of every community, but the COVID-19 pandemic is putting their survival in jeopardy,” the lawmakers wrote today to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. “Since the pandemic upended American life in mid-March, thousands of independent, local restaurants have closed their doors, laid off employees, and now face an uncertain future. Every link in the $1 trillion restaurant supply chain is affected.” 

The RESTAURANTS Act (H.R. 7197) was originally introduced by Blumenauer – a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee – in June 2020 and since then, the legislation has garnered nearly 150 bipartisan cosponsors, including Majority Whip James Clyburn, Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Lujan, Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, and 11 House Committee chairs.

A PDF copy of the letter is available here.

Following is the full text:

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy:

Thank you for your leadership in providing critical economic relief for Americans during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. This assistance has kept millions of families out of poverty, saved countless small businesses, and avoided a calamitous economic depression. However, our work will be erased without further federal assistance. As you negotiate with the Senate and Trump administration on the next relief package, it is critical that you include H.R. 7197, the RESTAURANTS Act, in any final bill to save America’s 500,000 independent restaurants and their 11 million employees.

Restaurants are the beating heart of every community, but the COVID-19 pandemic is putting their survival in jeopardy. Since the pandemic upended American life in mid-March, thousands of independent, local restaurants have closed their doors, laid off employees, and now face an uncertain future. Every link in the $1 trillion restaurant supply chain is affected.

The restaurant industry has been uniquely devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is particularly true of independent restaurants, which account for more than three-quarters of all restaurants and bars in the United States. The restaurant sector is the top contributor to unemployment rolls across America. Even with restaurants and bars reopening, employment in the restaurant industry is down 3.1 million people since February. Some of these jobs are coming back, but many will never return and some reopened restaurants may not stay open without federal assistance.

The Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed To Survive (RESTAURANTS) Act creates a restaurant revitalization fund that is available through 2020 and can be used for everything from payroll and benefits to food, utilities, and rent. A June 2020 study on the legislation found it would generate at least $183 billion in primary benefits and $65 billion in secondary benefits – more than double the amount of the fund. The legislation would also reduce the U.S. unemployment rate by an estimated 2.4 percent. Without this type of targeted assistance, 85% of independent restaurants are at risk of permanently closing.

Thank you for your consideration of the RESTAURANTS Act in the next COVID-19 relief bill. We look forward to partnering with you to save independent restaurants across America.

Sincerely,