House passes Blumenauer’s $120 billion restaurant relief legislation
The U.S. House of Representatives today approved the RESTAURANTS Act, a $120 billion restaurant relief bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). It’s the first time that either chamber of Congress has passed targeted relief for the nation’s 500,000 independent restaurants – which account for three-quarters of the restaurants and bars in the United States – and their 11 million workers. The legislation was approved as part of the revised Heroes Act – a $2.2 trillion coronavirus response package to fund testing and contact tracing, aid for state and local governments, additional direct cash payments to American families, and critical support for small businesses.
The RESTAURANTS Act, which was first introduced by Blumenauer in June, would provide $120 billion in urgently needed relief to independent restaurants devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. The legislation provides restaurants with grants to cover operating costs such as payroll and benefits, food, utilities, rent, and more.
"What started as a local Portland effort to save our beloved food establishments has turned into a national movement that has now passed the U.S. House of Representatives,” Blumenauer said. “Local, independent restaurants are the cornerstone of communities large and small and it's hard to imagine what life would be like without those vital institutions. Restaurants are not only where people come together, but they also provide a disproportionate avenue of economic success for minorities, immigrants, and women. We’re doing everything we can to ensure that the Senate joins us in quickly approving this critical relief to local, independent restaurants and their workers.”
Notably, Blumenauer’s restaurant relief legislation gives priority to minority- and women-owned and operated establishments. Unlike previous federal relief packages, this aid would only be available to food service or drinking establishments with fewer than 20 locations that are not publicly traded.
Both the White House and the Senate have signaled the importance of targeted relief for restaurants in a COVID relief package. If the Senate fails to take up the restaurant relief provisions passed by the House today, many independent restaurants could close permanently. A recent National Bureau of Economic Research report found that only 15% of independent restaurants may survive if the pandemic continues.
More information about the RESTAURANTS Act can be found here.
In addition to targeted restaurant relief, other key provisions of the revised Heroes Act include:
- ADDITIONAL DIRECT PAYMENTS: Provides a second round of more substantial economic impact payments of $1,200 per taxpayer and $500 per dependent.
- HOUSING ASSISTANCE: Provides tens of billions in new financial support to assist renters and homeowners in making their monthly rent, mortgage and utility payments and for other housing-related costs.
- EXTENDED UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS: Extends weekly supplemental $600 federal unemployment payments through next January.
- SUPPORT FOR SMALL BUSINESSES AND NONPROFITS: Supports small businesses by improving the Paycheck Protection Program to serve the smallest businesses and struggling non-profits, providing hard-hit businesses with second loans, and delivering targeted assistance for the restaurant industry and independent live venue operators.
- HEALTH COVERAGE: Protects Americans losing their employer-provided health insurance by making unemployed Americans automatically eligible to receive the maximum ACA subsidy on the exchanges, as well as establishing a special enrollment period in the ACA exchanges for uninsured Americans.
- FOOD SECURITY: Addresses rising hunger with a 15 percent increase to the maximum SNAP benefit and additional funding for nutrition programs that help families put food on the table as well as targeted support for farmers and producers impacted by the crisis.
- SAFEGUARDS FOR OUR DEMOCRACY: Provides new resources to ensure safe elections, an accurate Census, and preserve the Postal Service.
- PAYROLL PROTECTIONS: Enhances the new employee retention tax credit that encourages employers to keep employees on payroll.
- WORKER PROTECTIONS: Requires OSHA to issue a strong, enforceable standard within seven days to require all workplaces to develop and implement infection control plans based on CDC expertise.