The House of Representatives passed President Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion COVID relief bill early Saturday, meaning restaurants are one step closer to $ 25 billion relief.
Under the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, food and beverage businesses with 20 locations or less will be eligible for grants equal to the difference between 2020 and 2019 revenues, up to $ 10 million per business and $ 5 million per physical location. Grants can cover things like payroll, rent and utilities, operational expenses, paid sick leave, food and drink costs, maintenance costs, etc.
In addition, the fund allocates $ 5 billion to applicants with incomes of $ 500,000 or less and $ 20 billion to “eligible entities of different sizes based on annual gross revenues.” In the first 21 days, the application process will prioritize restaurants owned by women, veterans, and those who are socially and economically disadvantaged.
“Congress is helping millions of people who depend on restaurants and bars for their livelihoods feel a little more optimistic tonight,” Erika Polmar, executive director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, said in a statement. “Every week more and more restaurants are closing and registering a record number of unemployment claims. Our communities desperately need these grants to stop the bleeding, and our coalition will continue to fight to make it a reality.
The bill also includes 1,400 checks for most Americans, $ 350 billion for state and local governments, $ 130 billion to help reopen K-12 schools and more than $ 75 billion for COVID testing. and vaccine deployment. The bill also adds $ 7.25 billion in funding for the paycheck protection program. Since its launch last year, the program has disbursed about $ 663 billion, of which about $ 143 billion was in the last funding round. The program is expected to expire at the end of March.
The House bill includes an increase in the minimum wage to $ 15, but that is unlikely to survive in the Senate. Indeed, Congress is pushing the COVID relief bill through a process known as budget reconciliation, which would allow Democrats to pass it by a simple majority, instead of needing Republican backing. The reconciliation process is accompanied by stricter rules, such as provisions to be directly linked to the budget. Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough decided that the increase in the minimum wage was not eligible.
“The inclusion of the wage hike law will needlessly harm the servers and restaurants most at risk of closing their doors for good,” said Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public affairs for the National Restaurant Association, in a statement. communicated. “We need an agreement that supports the return of the catering jobs needed for local economies to recover from the pandemic, but that does not penalize our workers or slow down our reconstruction. We will continue to work with Congress to find this solution. “
The bill will go to the Senate, where the minimum wage provision will be removed. This means that the bill will have to return to the House for final approval.
An increase in the minimum wage could still be introduced in a stand-alone bill or other legislation.
“With its historic vote of $ 15, the House has shown that it knows workers cannot survive on $ 7.25,” Ieshia Townsend, union leader of Fight for $ 15, said in a statement. “Members of the House have stood up for American cooks, cashiers, janitors and home workers. Now is the time for the Senate to finish the job, pass a minimum wage bill of $ 15 and send it to the President. By any means necessary. We have gone too far to let an archaic Senate process that held back black and brown workers stop us. We will not let the parliamentarian of the Senate prevent 32 million workers from winning a much needed raise.