Approximately 46% of restaurant operators that did not receive a Restaurant Revitalization Fund grant believe it is unlikely they will be able to stay open past the pandemic, a survey of 4,200 restaurant owners released by the National Restaurant Association revealed on Monday.
The National Restaurant Association released this data, along with other statistics, in a letter to Congress on Monday, pleading for lawmakers to consider passing another round of Restaurant Revitalization Fund grants to help the 177,000 applicants that were unable to procure a piece of the $29 billion allocated to restaurants when the first round of RRF opened last May.
“Two years into the pandemic, restaurants are still struggling to keep their doors open amid a surge in coronavirus cases, inflation, a labor shortage, and supply chain delays,” the National Restaurant Association letter addressed to Congressional leaders reads. “Alarmingly, the industry still hasn’t recreated the more than 650,000 jobs lost early in the pandemic, a loss 45% more than the next closest industry.”
The National Restaurant Association data illustrates how much the first round of grants helped the thousands of applicants that were able to receive money: 96% of survey respondents said that the RRF grant made it more likely for them to stay in business, though three-quarters of respondents said that the grant funding they received was not enough to cover the loss of sales from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many restaurant operators did not just come out of the first round of RRF empty-handed, but they had their promised funds canceled due to the outcome of anti-discrimination lawsuits against the U.S. Small Business Administration for prioritizing specific groups first in the first weeks of restaurant relief funding.
Whether they received funding or not, operators have made it clear that even with the pandemic’s deadly effects beginning to wane and the economy slowly improving, restaurant industry sales are still slumping overall, especially with the current labor crisis and omicron variant. According to the survey data, 76% of all operators say that business conditions are now worse than they had been three months ago, and only 3% said business has improved.
“After two years of closures, COVID-19 variants, worker shortages, and inflationary pressure, a dangerous number of restaurants are at the end of the line,” the letter reads. “The RRF was a critical lifeline to many, but far more remain on the sidelines, desperately looking for support amid continued economic uncertainty. The decisions you make in the coming weeks will be critical to the future of the nation’s restaurant industry.”
Earlier this month, the Biden administration made clear that the White House is looking to the future and focusing on moving on from the government-assistant portion of pandemic recovery.
"We did a major relief package that included helping restaurants just last year,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a press conference right after the New Year. “We are in constant discussions with Congress and leadership about the needs of the American people, whether they are small businesses or restaurants or people sitting in their homes, as we continue to fight the pandemic, but we don't have any new prediction of new pending requests or specific requests and wouldn't predict that at this moment in time."
Last summer, three separate groups of bipartisan lawmakers introduced legislation to refill the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, including the $60 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act, a similar Republican-led ENTRÉE Act that would be funded by unspent EIDLs and funds from Biden’s American Rescue Plan, and a $48 billion emergency funding plan proposed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)
Tricia Martin, who owns TJ's Burritos in East Granby, Conn. just opened her restaurant last year in Feb. 2021 during the pandemic and said that business during omicron has not been great during a National Restaurant Association press conference Monday.
"We’re just looking to provide for our family and community by increasing our business and hiring more people," Martin said about her desire for a Restaurant Revitalization Fund grant.
With the letter published Monday, the National Restaurant Association joins other activist groups like the Independent Restaurant Coalition in asking Congress to again consider one of these proposed pieces of legislation to give restaurants another lifeline.
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