Washington, D.C. — Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, a member of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, co-sponsored the Continuing Emergency Support for Restaurants Act, led by U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), to provide $48 billion in additional funding to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF).
“Restaurants have been among the hardest-hit businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they need our support,” said Bennet. “Our legislation will boost funding to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund to ensure restaurants have the resources they need to stay afloat during this ongoing public health crisis.”
“Replenishment of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund is crucial for our restaurant community. We strongly support S. 2675. The legislation would provide targeted, tailored, and temporary relief to restaurants, in dire need of assistance. We know that the RRF worked as intended for those restaurants that received grants. According to a recent survey from the National Restaurant Association, 96% of RRF recipients said the grant made it more likely that they would be able to stay in business. 92% of RRF recipients said the grant helped them pay expenses or debt that had accumulated since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Sonia Riggs, President and CEO, Colorado Restaurant Association. “Unfortunately, Congress underfunded the original program, only setting aside $28.6 billion. More than 278,000 eligible applications totaling over $72.2 billion in RRF funds were submitted. In Colorado, more than 63% of applicants did not receive funding (nearly 3,100 restaurants). Colorado restaurants have been devastated these past few years and are still fighting to survive. Many are hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and are struggling to fully staff their restaurants while facing increased costs and supply chain issues. Replenishing this fund will make a significant difference to Colorado restaurants and their communities.”
The food services sector has been one of the hardest-hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), the restaurant industry has yet to recover the more than 650,000 jobs lost early in the pandemic. In January 2022, an NRA survey found that the omicron variant hit the industry particularly hard, with 88% of restaurants experiencing a decline in demand for indoor dining during the coldest months of the year, 76% of restaurants reporting conditions had worsened, and 74% reporting lower profits in comparison to pre-pandemic levels.
In March 2021, Congress created RRF and appropriated $28.6 billion in funding to provide grants to eligible entities equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss up to $10 million and no more than $5 million per location. Eligible entities include restaurants, bars, food trucks and carts, brewpubs, tasting rooms, and other food services establishments. The grants may be used for eligible expenses, such as payroll, rent, and supply costs.
On June 30, 2021, SBA announced the closure of RRF due to the exhaustion of funds. SBA also announced that more than 278,000 applications were submitted to the program, but the agency was only able to fund approximately 101,000 of them. The Continuing Emergency Support for Restaurants Act will enable SBA to fund the eligible restaurants that applied but did not receive RRF funding because of the shortfall.
In addition to Bennet, Cardin, and Wicker, this legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Angus King (I-Maine), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), and Chris Coons (D-Del.).
The bill text is available HERE.