Restaurants are often the first to step up, feed, and support their communities by volunteering their staff, time, effort, energy, food, drink, gift certificates, enthusiasm, labor, and money to help their neighbors in need ALL YEAR LONG. The requests of restaurants and small business to donate are relentless, and many are happy to do what they can. And when it came time to save the same charitable entities, American ‘leaders’ walked away…
The ‘United’ States Senate voted and failed to take action to save 177,300 independent, Mom & Pop, neighborhood restaurants and small businesses in America on May 19, 2022. Historically, ‘we’ have ‘bailed out’ big insurance companies, big banks, the big auto and airline industries, to name a few. on 5/19, ‘we’ completely failed to recognize the importance of restaurants and small businesses to our communities and our economy. They are a critical part of the fabric and soul of our neighborhoods, and the American Government insultingly failed them during a moment of truth in the Senate. Don’t tell me, “We’re (America) better than this,” we’re not. This is who/where ‘we’ are as a country, and it’s disgusting.
177,300 independent restaurants were notified that they were approved to receive the same, life-saving federal grants that 100k+ of their peers received. Some of those 100k+ restaurant groups and entities received up to $10 million, and the remaining, eligible restaurants got absolutely NOTHING!! The stupidity and inequity in that is stunning. We were only asking for fairness, to level the ‘playing field’ for all restaurants and small businesses to allow them to pay back their staggering bills/debts and give them a fighting chance to survive!!
Partisanship, and the tribal, divisive preoccupation with party ‘power,’ instead of collaboratively initiating and driving an agenda to actually help serve, protect, defend, and advocate for an equitable, improved quality of life for the American people, has undermined, paralyzed, and destroyed ‘our’ once ‘great’ American Democracy. And it’s absolutely disgraceful…
I posted the following on Twitter on July 12, 2021 after Round 1 of funding of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund grants dried up: “Whether your restaurant received a #RRF grant or not, every independent #restaurant in #America should be furious + engaged until every eligible restaurant is funded. Use every platform u have to spread the word. This IS life or death 4 many. #ReplenishRRF”
President Biden & Congress: URGENT Request to Replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund-Support ALL Eligible Independent Restaurants & Bars NOW!!! #ReplenishRRF
Attachment 2 to Tweet:
“The original RRF received requests for more than $75 billion in funding. On average, restaurants asked for grants of roughly $207,000.
According to data released by the SBA, there were 72,568 “priority” applicants, roughly 72 percent, who received relief totaling $17,965,827,472.09. In all, less than a third of the largest grants went to prioritization groups and less than 10 percent went to non-priority businesses.
The SBA said 10,155 franchise locations received $2,649,675,046.00; six Hilton Hotel subsidiary locations collected $21,178,445.07; five Wyndham Hotel subsidiary locations took home $2,937,875.87; 85,406 businesses from urban areas received relief; and 15,598 businesses from rural areas received relief.
Nearly 70 entities received the RRF’s top draw—$10 million, including 15 wedding venues and caterers, eight airport and sports venue concessions companies, franchises from the quick-service industry’s largest brands, including Panera Bread and McDonald’s. Multiple events spaces and airport concession companies, as well as franchisees of Dunkin’, Buffalo Wild Wings, Chuck E. Cheese, Five Guys, and Jimmy John’s, collected grants within the $5 million to $10 million range.”
And 177,300 eligible restaurants and small businesses got NOTHING!!
Instead of distributing the total amount of funding between all of the approved, eligible entities, ‘The Greatest Country in the World” gave all of the money to approximately 1/3 of those approved and abandoned the rest. “Don’t worry, this is America, we’ll do the right thing,” many of us thought. But NOOOOO…… America is broken.
On April 14, 2022, after the Senate failed, the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) posted this on Twitter @IndpRestaurants:
Shortly after the Senate vote, IRC released the following statement:
Independent Restaurant Coalition Estimates Over 50% of Restaurants Could Close After Senate Fails to Pass Funding for Restaurant Revitalization Fund in 52 to 43 Vote
Independent Restaurants React to Senate Vote: “Local restaurants expected help and the Senate couldn’t finish the job”
WASHINGTON D.C. — The Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) today reacted to the Senate’s failure to pass The Small Business COVID Relief Act (S.4008), sponsored by Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), which would have replenished the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) with $40 billion. The vote total was 52 to 43.
“Local restaurants across the country expected help but the Senate couldn’t finish the job,” said Erika Polmar, Executive Director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition. “Neighborhood restaurants nationwide have held out hope for this program, selling their homes, cashing out retirement funds, or taking personal loans in an effort to keep their employees working and their doors open. We estimate more than half of the 177,300 restaurants waiting for an RRF grant will close in the next few months as a result of Congressional inaction.”
Polmar continued: “The IRC was born out of the first and darkest days of the pandemic. Independent restaurants came together to create a strong collective voice. For two years that voice has spoken forcefully and effectively, advocating for relief. Now that same voice will fight for the issues critical to independent restaurants and will remain engaged in Washington, DC and local communities. And make no mistake, we will keep fighting for a sustainable future for independent restaurateurs, their employees, and the communities they support. We remain grateful to the elected officials and their staffs who have worked tirelessly for independent restaurants, including Majority Leader Schumer, Sens. Wicker, Cardin, and Sinema, Speaker Pelosi and Representatives Blumenauer and Fitzpatrick. There would be no Restaurant Revitalization Fund without their efforts and they will continue to be outspoken champions for neighborhood restaurants in Congress.”
At least 90,000 restaurants and bars have closed since the beginning of the pandemic. Almost 300,000 restaurants applied for RFF grants in 2021, but nearly 200,000 restaurants did not receive funding – 52% of which reported that they are on the verge of permanent closure if the RRF is not replenished. Ninety senators voted to create what became the Restaurant Revitalization Fund last February.
Earlier this week, ChowNow, Toast, and over twenty other businesses and trade associations penned an industry letter urging Congress to act quickly so that the tens of thousands of independent restaurants that did not receive relief could keep their doors open. The group of businesses and trade associations warned Congress that as many as four in five restaurants and bars are in danger of closing permanently, threatening the livelihoods of farmers, bakers, and thousands of employees.
The House of Representatives passed the Relief for Restaurants and Other Hard Hit Small Businesses Act (H.R. 3807) with a bipartisan vote in April which would have provided an additional $42 billion to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
A recent IRC survey of nearly 1,200 members of the independent restaurant and bar community in all 50 states found that more than half of businesses that did not get RRF grants will close within six months. The data also found that 49% of businesses that did not receive RRF grants were forced to lay off workers because of the Omicron surge compared to 33% of businesses that received RRF grants.
42% of businesses that did not receive RRF grants are in danger of filing for or have filed for bankruptcy, compared to just 20% that received RRF grants.
28% of businesses that did not receive RRF grants have received or are anticipating receiving an eviction notice compared to just 10% that received RRF grants.
Restaurant and bar owners who did not receive an RRF grant are taking on more personal debt. 41% of people that did not receive RRF reported taking out new personal loans to support their businesses since February of 2020. This is only true for 19% of businesses that received an RRF grant.
46% of businesses reported that their operating hours were impacted for more than 10 days in December 2021.
58% of businesses reported that their sales decreased by more than half in December 2021.
Full results of the survey can be found here.
ABOUT THE IRC:
The Independent Restaurant Coalition was formed by chefs and independent restaurant owners across the country who have built a grassroots movement to secure vital protections for the nation’s 500,000 independent restaurants and the more than 11 million restaurant and bar workers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
SENATE SHOOTS DOWN BILL TO REPLENISH RESTAURANT REVITALIZATION FUND
The bill could not muster enough votes to get past a filibuster despite bipartisan support, effectively killing the legislation. By Jonathan Maze on May 19, 2022
“The U.S. Senate on Thursday ended the possibility of replenishing the Restaurant Revitalization Fund when a $48 billion bill to provide relief to small businesses hit by COVID restrictions could not generate enough votes to overcome a filibuster.
The bill would have added $40 billion to the RRF, which would have provided enough funding for some 177,000 restaurants that thought they’d receive aid last year but could not when the original fund ran out.”
National Restaurant Association May 19, 2022:
Hopes of Replenishing RRF Dashed by Senate
National Restaurant Association Statement on Small Business COVID Relief Act of 2022 vote
“Washington, D.C. (May 19, 2022) – Today, the U.S. Senate failed to advance the Small Business COVID Relief Act of 2022 (S. 4008), ending the possibility of replenishing the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF). The vote is a devastating blow to the restaurant industry and small business operators.
“Throughout the pandemic, restaurants focused on serving their communities. When government-mandated closures shuttered dining rooms, restaurants found a way to shift operating models and keep employees on the payroll. When first responders needed a hot meal, restaurants stepped in to help in cities and towns across the country,” said Michelle Korsmo, President & CEO of the National Restaurant Association. “When Congress offered these restaurants the RRF lifeline, restaurant owners and operators made business decisions based on those commitments. Restaurants that are still trying to make up for what was lost in the pandemic today are struggling with workforce shortages, record-high inflation, and supply chain constraints. Today’s vote will further exacerbate those challenges and result in more economic hardships for the families and communities across the country that rely on the restaurant and foodservice industry.”
“Today, a Senate filibuster dashed the promise made to more than 177,000 small business owners in communities across the country” said Sean Kennedy, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs for the National Restaurant Association. “These restaurant owners believed the creation of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund was a down payment, and that the Senate would complete the mission with this vote. A bipartisan majority voted to begin debate on this critical legislation, but it wasn’t the 60 votes needed. While there are valid questions about government spending and inflation, restaurants should not be caught in the crossfire. We applaud the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), as well as Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) for their work in creating and pressing to replenish the RRF.”
The $48 billion Small Business COVID Relief Act of 2022 (S. 4008), introduced by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), included $40 billion for RRF replenishment and $8 billion in support for other industries deeply impacted by the pandemic. The House passed the Relief for Restaurants and other Hard Hit Small Businesses Act of 2022 (H.R. 3807), that included $42 billion to replenish the RRF, on April 7. Both political parties agreed that the RRF should be replenished but couldn’t reach a consensus on how to pay for it. Democrats generally wanted to treat replenishment as emergency spending, while Republicans generally wanted existing funds reallocated.
The American Rescue Plan established the RRF with $28.6 billion that Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) called a down payment to restaurants. More than 278,000 restaurants applied for funds from the RRF, but only 101,000 applications were funded before the Small Business Administration ran out of funding. By leaving 177,000 without aid, the Federal government essentially picked winners and losers, among direct competitors, based on chance, not need.
The program’s initial round of funding, which operators used primarily to pay off debt and meet payroll, was a resounding success. According to Association research(Opens in a new window), more than 900,000 restaurant jobs were saved, and 96% of recipients report that the funds helped their establishments remain open.
But those that did not receive funds are still languishing. In fact, 62% of operators says their restaurant accumulated additional debt since the beginning of the pandemic; 57% said their restaurant fell behind on expenses. Industry-wide, eating and drinking establishments lost $300 billion in sales the first year of the pandemic.
Even though the restaurant industry appears to be recovering from a consumer spending perspective, for restaurants, most of which operate on 3-5% pre-tax profit margins, the challenges continue to mount. Soaring food prices, supply chain constraints, and workforce shortages make it impossible for many restaurants to pay off debt that was accumulated during the pandemic.”
There is some quiet, distant chatter about ‘Budget Reconciliation’ reviving the chances of funding the eligible, but abandoned American restaurants and small businesses. Don’t hold your breath, our ‘leaders’ are too busy to care, ripping each other to shreds in the pursuit of ‘tribal’ power…