Sen. Cory Booker has pledged his support for a bipartisan bill focused on providing support to independent restaurants struggling to survive due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The coronavirus pandemic has dealt a crippling blow to nearly every aspect of our economy, with independent restaurants hit especially hard,” Booker said. “Without a robust federal response, many of our independent restaurants face permanently shuttering, taking with them the many jobs they support across New Jersey and our nation.”
The Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive (Restaurants) Act of 2020 would establish a $120 billion revitalization fund to help independent restaurants deal with the long-term structural challenges caused by COVID-19.
Catastrophic Unemployment Rates
Additionally, The Restaurants Act would support the reemployment of 11 million workers.
Industry data showed that in April alone, 5.5 million restaurant workers throughout the country lost their jobs as the pandemic decimated the industry. An estimate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the job loss within the restaurant industry at 6.1 million nationwide.
Restaurants continue to face massive revenue losses due to social-distancing mandates, higher costs of food, supplies and personal protection equipment as well as hesitations by customers to dine out. As a result, small independent and franchise restaurants are at a greater risk of going out of business.
“Restaurants in New Jersey and across the country have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, and (this bill) is critical in providing real financial relief to them,” said Marilou Halvorsen, President of the NJ Restaurant & Hospitality Association. “Restaurants are the backbone of every community, and we urge Congress to act swiftly to give aid to the hospitality industry and other small businesses.”
New Jersey’s senior senator has signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill.
“The social distancing and stay-at-home orders necessary to contain the spread of the virus helped flatten the curve and prevent our health system from being overrun, but the economic fallout has caused enormous pain all around,” said Sen. Bob Menendez. “Many local restaurants, bars and catering halls have been forced to close. Workers have been laid off or furloughed. Even those establishments that were able to quickly shift to delivery, take-out or outdoor dining, are still in the red.”
“New Jersey’s normally bustling restaurant and hospitality industry helps drive the economy in our local communities. The Restaurants Act will help give them the financial relief many need to stay open, keep people employed and drive our economic recovery.”
Booker called for legislation that would create more opportunities for recovery as the industry rebuilds.
In total, the recovery fund would generate at least $183 billion in primary benefits and $65 billion in secondary benefits—more than double the amount of the proposed grants.
U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) introduced the legislation. A companion bill was also introduced in the House by Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).
A similar bill has passed both houses of the New Jersey legislature. The bipartisan measure (A-4413/S-2704) would allocate $30 million to the Economic Development Authority through the CARES Act to reimburse restaurants via grants or loans. Funding would go to restaurants that shelled out money on supplies in preparation for indoor dining’s return on July 2.