Rep. Blumenauer Leads Bipartisan Coalition in Introducing Independent Restaurant Stabilization Fund

June 18, 2020
Press Release

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, today introduced bipartisan legislation that calls for $120 billion restaurant stabilization grant program designed to help independent restaurants deal with the long-term structural challenges facing the industry due to COVID-19 and ensure they can reemploy 11 million workers.  


H.R. 7197, The Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive (RESTAURANTS) Act of 2020 would help independent restaurants deal with the long-term structural challenges facing the industry due to COVID-19 and ensure they can reemploy 11 million workers. The legislation was introduced in the House alongside Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Annie Kuster (D-NH), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), and Adam Smith (D-WA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Susan Wild (D-PA). Accompanying legislation was introduced in the Senate by Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chris Coons, (D-DE), and Doug Jones (D-AL).


"The COVID-19 pandemic has damaged every sector of the economy, but none more than independent restaurants," said Rep. Blumenauer. “Without federal assistance, our corner coffee shops, diners, and cafes may never reopen their doors. I’m delighted to partner with Senator Wicker and restaurant industry leaders to make sure that millions of restaurants and their workers are not left behind."


Our independent, local restaurants have been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Forced to operate through takeout and delivery only, many family-operated restaurants in my community have lost thousands of dollars in potential income,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “The mom and pop diner and deli on Main Street are hurting right now. Without immediate help, these local businesses and their hardworking employees will be suffering from the economic impact of this pandemic for years to come, and that is why I am proud to partner with Congressman Blumenauer to provide them with relief through this revitalization fund.”


“The coronavirus pandemic continues to threaten millions of jobs supported by America’s small and independent restaurants,” Senator Wicker said. “These small businesses are hurting because of the costs of restocking perishable foods, retooling their operations, and they still cannot operate at full capacity even as the country reopens. The RESTAURANTS Act would save many of these businesses, benefiting their workers and the farmers, fishermen, distributors, and truckers that rely on them.” 


“Arizona restaurants fuel jobs across our state, and they need support now. Establishing a Restaurant Revitalization Fund will help get Arizonans back to work and ensure our local Arizona restaurants can keep their doors open as we continue to fight the ongoing coronavirus pandemic,” said Senator Sinema.


Rep. Dwight Evans said, “Many Americans tend to think of cheesesteaks when they think of Philadelphia, but the truth is my city has a wide-ranging, vibrant restaurant sector that includes so much more, makes the city a great place to live and provides thousands of jobs that are vital to neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia. I’m pleased to co-sponsor this bill to help independent restaurants and their employees.” 


“While some Granite State restaurants have been able to expand take-out options and outdoor seating during the COVID-19 pandemic, the financial impact of this crisis has been devastating for many of these small businesses,” said Rep. Kuster. “I’m proud to help introduce this bipartisan legislation to provide a lifeline to the restaurant industry and support New Hampshire restaurant owners and employees through this unprecedented crisis.”

“With the limitations of SBA’s existing COVID-19 loan programs, Congress needs to step up and support small restaurants which are fighting to survive during this unparalleled economic downturn,” said Rep. Chellie Pingree. “The RESTAURANT Act would create a $120 billion grant program for non-chain restaurants to stay afloat and help restaurant workers to stay connected to their jobs. Small restaurants in Maine contribute more than $3 billion to our economy and employ more than 40,000 people. We must ensure they have adequate resources to weather this crisis.” 


“America’s restaurants support local jobs, farms and countless suppliers in every community across the country,” said Rep. Peter Welch. “The Paycheck Protection Program does not fit the needs of the many restaurants hit hard by this pandemic, who have closed for months and are just now opening at greatly reduced capacity. This bill is a critical step to ensure our treasured local establishments are able to survive this pandemic to serve their neighbors again soon.”


“Our local restaurants have been devastated by both the COVID-19 health crisis and the resulting economic crisis,” said Rep. Wild. “Our restaurants are part of what makes the economy, and culture, of the Greater Lehigh Valley thrive, and without immediate support, the livelihoods of tens of millions of individuals and families remain at risk. For months, I’ve been hearing from local restaurant owners who need strong action now to survive, and this legislation is the first step forward.”

Restaurants have been uniquely devastated by COVID-19. In April alone, 5.5 million restaurant workers lost their jobs, accounting for 27% of total job losses in the month. Without further action from Congress, over 11 million independent restaurant workers are at risk of permanently losing their jobs.  Restaurants are facing months of massive revenue losses due to government mandated social distancing, rising costs of supplies, new expenses for personal protective equipment, and a decrease in the public’s willingness to dine out. 

The RESTAURANTS Act has the support of the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC). In April, the group sent a letter to Congress calling for the creation of a stabilization fund. In May, the Independent Restaurant Coalition discussed plans for a restaurant stabilization fund at a meeting with President Trump and senior White House officials. 

"Representative Blumenauer and Senator Wicker's bipartisan Restaurant Revitalization Fund has given America’s 500,000 independent restaurants a day of hope,” said the Independent Restaurant Coalition. “The need for relief for independent restaurants cannot be overstated in a time of so much uncertainty. Independent restaurants that had limited openings are now closing again. Many still wait for Paycheck Protection Program loans and are accumulating more and more debt in the process.  This is about more than preserving our most cherished places of celebration and gathering– it’s about bringing a massive economy of over 16 million workers and billions of dollars in spending back to life. The revitalization fund is a smart investment that would contribute more than two dollars to the economy for every one dollar spent and ensure millions of Americans have a shot at keeping their job. If Congress steps up and passes the RESTAURANTS Act today, our independent restaurants will deliver for the economy tomorrow."

There are approximately 500,000 independent restaurants in the United States, which account for approximately 76% of the 658,000 total restaurants and bars in the United States. According to a recent study, about 5.9 million restaurant jobs (an estimated 4.5 million of which are from independent restaurants) have vanished within a matter of weeks— the most of any industry and nearly double the figure from the next most affected industry.

In addition, the study found that 85% of independent restaurants are likely to close by the end of the year if direct aid like the stabilization fund is not provided to the industry. Independent restaurants are more at risk of permanently going out of business due to the pandemic because consumer spending at these establishments has been disproportionately affected and they lack the same access to capital markets. In whole, the Stabilization Fund will generate at least $183 billion in primary benefits and $65 billion in secondary benefits—more than double the amount of the proposed grants. 

To read the full economic study, click here.

A full summary of the legislation can be found here.    

To read the full text of the bill, click here.