Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and restaurateur Tom Colicchio, owner of Crafted Hospitality and founding member of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, called for an additional $60 billion in relief to help independent restaurants struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The bicameral Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act of 2021 would allow the Small Business Administration to continue awarding grants to applicants who were previously approved but have yet to receive funding. Previously, Gillibrand and Colicchio advocated to include $28.6 billion in the American Rescue Plan for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, prioritizing applications from women, veterans, and minority business owners. Due to the high volume of applicants and recent court cases that successfully halted the applicant prioritization provision, less than one-third of the 362,000 applicants received funding.
“The $28.6 billion originally allocated in the Restaurant Revitalization Fund was a huge step in addressing the ongoing and unique economic crisis that our nation’s restaurants weathered this past year. The demand for the fund simply outpaced the supply, and we need to ensure these businesses get the resources they desperately need,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Independent restaurants are critical to our economy and this additional $60 billion funding boost will provide direct aid to the restaurant owners Congress initially intended to assist and help these vital businesses keep their doors open.”
“There are many reports that restaurants are back and restaurants are busy – we’ve been a little busier for the last two months, but two months of revenue is not going to make up for 15 months of zero revenue, or very little revenue. The Restaurant Revitalization Fund is doing everything it was intended to do, but clearly, the funding was not adequate and did not include everyone,” said Tom Colicchio. “At the Independent Restaurant Coalition, we’re hearing every day from restaurateurs across the country that are struggling. They thought they were going to get funding. They saw a light at the end of the tunnel and now they’re devastated. If these restaurants close, we know the effects it has on the community: it’s people’s jobs, it’s keeping lights on at night, it’s keeping neighborhoods safe. Right now, it’s estimated that $60 billion will cover every application currently in process. We need this bipartisan and bicameral bill to go through.”
The restaurant industry experienced unique long-term challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Across the country, restaurants were devastated by stay-at-home orders and disruptions to the food supply chain, which led to operating restrictions and slashed revenue. In New York, the leisure and hospitality industry accounted for 31.6% of all jobs lost. Independent restaurants employ 11 million people nationally; however, the impact of shuttered restaurants is felt far beyond their direct employees. The food supply chain industry provides a $1 trillion boost to the U.S. economy, in addition to tens of millions of jobs. The restaurant industry is a $51.6 billion industry in New York and employs nearly 1 in 10 New Yorkers. Those who work in the industry are disproportionately immigrants, people of color, and those who were formerly incarcerated – communities hit hardest by the pandemic. In August of 2020, nearly 90% of New York City bar and restaurant owners couldn’t pay rent and many have had to shut their doors permanently.
The Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act of 2021 would help keep workers employed by providing a lifeline to small restaurants and bars that are still struggling to keep their doors open and pay their workers. While the American Rescue Plan established a formal $28.6 million Restaurant Revitalization Fund, as proposed by the bipartisan RESTAURANTS Act, the SBA received hundreds of thousands of applications, amounting to nearly $75 billion worth of requests, which far exceeded the original fund. Additionally, when the Restaurant Revitalization Fund was originally constructed, Congress intended to prioritize funding for business owners who needed it most and who were disproportionately affected by the pandemic – including funding women, veterans, and minority business owners. Recent lawsuits successfully halted the applicant prioritization provision and put payments on hold for thousands of applicants. This bill would allocate $60 billion in additional funding to put in the hands of businesses owners, including those counting on previously approved funding.
This announcement comes as the Senate continues efforts to pass multiple spending bills, including a comprehensive, bipartisan infrastructure bill. Senator Gillibrand is pushing for the bipartisan, bicameral legislation to be included in any spending package considered in the Senate.
The full text of the legislation can be found here.