- By Steve Bittenbender | The Center Square contributor / February 22nd, 2021
(The Center Square) – In New York City on Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the restaurant industry suffering from the COVID-19 crisis has his full attention.
The New York Democrat said he plans a restaurant relief fund like the RESTAURANTS Act filed last year in the House of Representatives. That bill had 218 sponsors or co-sponsors, with all but 12 Democrats. Of the dozen GOP supporters, four were from New York.
The nation’s largest city, one of the first in the country to be hit and the community hit hardest by the pandemic, suffered more economic damage than other communities across the U.S., and the restaurant industry shows the extent of that. Before the health crisis, the city was home to 25,000 dining and drinking establishments that employed 325,000 workers. Since the pandemic began almost a year ago, more than 140,000 industry jobs have been lost in the city.
“Thousands of beloved restaurants and bars have permanently shuttered and countless more are teetering on the edge of survival,” said New York City Hospitality Alliance Executive Director Andrew Rigie. “Our eating and drinking spots have shed over 140,000 jobs and many New Yorkers still working in the industry are underemployed.”
The Alliance conducted a survey that showed 92 percent of more than 400 members polled did not have the money to pay rent in December.
Statewide, the data is bleak as well. The New York State Restaurant Association reported that 54 percent of those surveyed in November said they did not believe they could survive six months without federal aid. Nationwide, that figure is 37 percent.
“New York City restaurants, their employees and the city economy need immediate federal relief to weather COVID because too many of the places we know and love could close without the help, leaving a giant hole in our local economy,” Schumer said.
Under the plan, restaurant groups would be eligible for up to $10 million in grant funding, with individual locations able to receive up to $5 million. Of the $25 billion in aid available, $5 billion would be set for establishments making less than $500,000 in 2019. That money would be available for the first 60 days of the program.
Businesses with more than 20 locations would not be eligible.
The grant funding can be used for expenses incurred between Feb. 15, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2021. The Small Business Administration would oversee the program and could extend it for up to two years if necessary.
Restaurants can use the money for such expenses as payroll, rent or mortgage payments, utilities, purchases of supplies.
Schumer, who spoke to reporters at Manhattan establishment Dirt Candy, said the grants would offer critical support to the industry. He hopes it will be part of the COVID-19 relief plan, which was marked up in the House Budget Committee on Monday afternoon.