House Passes Blumenauer’s Restaurant Relief Proposal

February 27, 2021
Press Release
Successful vote paves the way for $25 billion to save local restaurants and jobs

Today, the House of Representatives passed a restaurant relief proposal written and championed by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) as part of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan being advanced by both chambers of Congress. The vote puts $25 billion in urgently needed restaurant relief one step closer to being delivered to the sector hit hardest from the pandemic, and its workers.

“Nearly a year ago, I began working with the Portland restaurant community to save our beloved local restaurants and protect the jobs, supply chains, and local economies they support. Even when this proposal was stuck in Mitch McConnell’s legislative graveyard, we refused to give up, because we knew it was the best opportunity to save independent restaurants,” said Blumenauer. “With today’s vote, we have finally set the table for a first course of urgently needed aid. As we hopefully return to normal later this year, this legislative lifeline could spell the difference between survival of some of our most cherished local restaurants and losing them forever.”

In the absence of targeted federal government aid to the industry, one in six restaurants has already permanently closed their doors since the start of the pandemic. The industry has also accounted for nearly a quarter of job losses, including consecutive months of job losses from November 2020 through January 2021. The relief proposal approved today will help prevent future restaurant closures and job losses for the industry’s more than 11 million employees, and preserve the $1 trillion supply chain.

“This is the first time in a long time we’re getting some good news” said Portland, OR bartender Micah Anderson. “Restaurants and bars are the lifeblood of Portland and communities across the country, and this $25 billion restaurant relief program gives me more peace of mind that our industry can fully recover from the pandemic. Without a robust bar and restaurant scene, I’m not sure how I’ll earn a living, and I’m not alone– people like me are losing their jobs everyday with nowhere to go. With these grants, Congress can give independent restaurants and bars a chance to get back to employing over 11 million people. I am so grateful to Congressman Blumenauer and the Independent Restaurant Coalition for taking the needs of our community seriously and making this restaurant grant program a priority in the budget. I hope the Senate quickly takes action to save my industry.” 

“Congress is helping millions of people who rely on restaurants and bars for their livelihood feel a little more optimistic tonight," said Erika Polmar, Executive Director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition. “Every week more restaurants close, and record numbers of unemployment claims are filed. Our communities desperately need these grants to stop the bleeding, and our coalition will continue fighting to make it a reality. We’re grateful to Rep. Blumenauer for his tireless efforts to secure this $25 billion restaurant and bar relief program in the budget, and we urge the Senate to quickly deliver this relief to restaurants and bars. The IRC will continue working closely with our Congressional champions and the Biden Administration to ensure the independent restaurants and bar community can fully reopen and keep millions of people employed when it’s safe to do so.”

Specifically, Blumenauer’s proposal will provide $25 billion in grants for food service and drinking establishments – including caterers, brewpubs, taprooms, and tasting rooms – that are not part of an affiliated group with more than 20 locations or publicly traded. These grants could be spent on payroll and benefits, mortgage, rent, utilities, maintenance, supplies, food and beverages, covered supplier costs, operational expenses, paid sick leave, and other essential expenses. Restaurants would be able to receive grants up to $5 million for an individual location or $10 million for a restaurant group.

In order to ensure the smallest restaurants are prioritized, $5 billion of the $25 billion fund is reserved for restaurants with less than $500,000 in gross receipts in 2019. Additionally, during the first three weeks of the grant period, priority will go toward restaurants owned or controlled by women, veterans, communities of color, and other economically disadvantaged communities.

A copy of the legislative text can be found here (Section 6003).