Aprovision replenishing the aid program for restaurants was excluded from theappropriation bills that will likely pass to keep the government funded.
By Peter Romeo on Mar. 08, 2022
A window forresurrecting the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) slid shut on Tuesday whena provision for replenishing the industry-focused aid program was excluded fromthe final version of the appropriations package that will fund the federalgovernment after Friday.
Congress wasfacing a March 11 deadline to appropriate more money to keep the governmentrunning. Because of the scope and focus of the various legislative measuresthat renew the federal budget, the occasion was seen as an opportunity toprovide more money for the RRF, which ran through its initial allotment of$28.6 billion in less than three weeks.
About 177,000would-be recipients were left empty-handed. But the program’s administrator,the U.S. Small Business administration, said the requests would be processed inthe order they were received if Congress allocated more money for the fund.
The industry has mounted an intense effort since then toconvince Congress that more direct aid was needed for the nation’s restaurantsto survive. They noted that the initial pool had been a lifeline for operatorsfrom coast to coast.
Several of the re-up measures had bipartisan support, butmany congresspeople and senators believed the industry had had its turn at theaid well, a comeback also used by the White House.
According to Beltway insiders, there was also a feelingamong many lawmakers that the industry had already weathered the worst of thepandemic. Operators pleaded that they were still fighting to stay in businessas deferred expenses such as rent and debt service came due.
“Today’s news that Congress is walking away from the RRFis a gut punch to the 177,000 restaurants who now have some incrediblydifficult decisions ahead of them,” Sean Kennedy, EVP of public affairs for theNational Restaurant Association, said in a statement. “The pandemic is over formuch of the economy, but small business restaurant owners have taken two stepsback with every variant.”
“Thousands of neighborhood restaurants are going to closeas a result of Congressional inaction on the Restaurant RevitalizationFund," Erika Polmar, executive director of the Independent RestaurantCoalition, said in a statement. “I hear from business owners every day who arehaving to close their doors, and since Congress and the White House couldn’tsee their way to refill the RRF, hundreds more will face the same fate in thecoming weeks."
With a re-up excluded from the appropriations legislation,the industry’s options for securing additional aid have narrowed to eitherfinding another vehicle for the reallocation or championing a newly craftedstand-alone bill.
“We will continue to pursue an all-of-the-above agenda torebuild and advance the nation’s second-largest private employer,” Kennedy saidin his statement.
The RRF program provided grants of up to $10 million tooperators of fewer than 20 restaurants. It was a component of the AmericanRescue Plan, the comprehensive COVID relief package that President Biden signedinto law in March 2021.