U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick and Earl Blumenauer and Sens. Roger Wicker and Kyrsten Sinema have introduced the RESTAURANTS Act of 2021. The legislation is an updated proposal to establish a $120 billion revitalization fund to support independent restaurants and small franchisees as they deal with the long-term structural challenges facing the industry because of COVID-19.
“Our independent, local restaurants continue to be hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Forced to continuously reimagine operations in response to each new, ambiguous state dining restriction thrown their way, and often limited to utilizing solely takeout and delivery services, many family-operated restaurants in my community and across our great nation have lost thousands of dollars in potential income and have resorted to unprecedented adaptive measures,” Fitzpatrick said. “The mom and pop diners and delis on Main Street need our help. Our bipartisan, bicameral RESTAURANTS Act will provide local businesses and their hardworking employees with the hope and support to survive this pandemic.”
The RESTAURANTS Act of 2021 is modeled after legislation the authors introduced last Congress. Their new proposal would create a $120 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund to provide relief to food service or drinking establishments that are part of a group of up to 20 facilities. Owners could apply for grants of up to $10 million to cover eligible expenses retroactively to Feb. 15, 2020, and ending eight months after the legislation is signed into law.
Grants could be used to support payroll, benefits, mortgage, rent, utilities, building maintenance and construction of outdoor facilities, supplies (including protective equipment and cleaning materials), food, operational expenses, paid sick leave, debt obligations to suppliers and any other essential expenses.
The legislation also includes several new provisions to help restaurants and their employees and ensure the integrity of the program. These provisions would update the award calculation based on annual loss from the calendar year 2020 rather than quarterly; provide grant eligibility for new restaurants that opened after Jan. 1, 2020; provide paid sick leave as an eligible expense for employees and provide a bonus amount to cover the cost of voluntarily providing 10 days of sick leave to employees; provide Treasury the discretion to help reduce waste, fraud, and abuse; impose reporting obligations on the Department of the Treasury to share who gets loans and demographic information about the recipients; ensure that restaurants can use both the Employee Retention Tax Credit and the RESTAURANTS Act grant program, so long as they are not used for the same expenses.
The legislation is supported by the Independent Restaurant Coalition and the National Restaurant Association.