In Omicron’s wake, further federal aid for restaurants unlikely

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Many restaurants have spent the last few weeks of 2021 – when in ordinary times they reaped the profits of big vacation dinners and hungry tourists – doing the responsible thing instead: shutting down their dining rooms and giving staff. time to pass COVID tests like the The Omicron Wave has spread like an uncontrollable fire across the country. Around the same time that restaurants and their employees were facing the onset of the nation’s biggest COVID spike to date, it was becoming increasingly unlikely, new reports from the Washington post, that they would receive financial assistance from the federal government.

The mid-December talks led by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) presented a $ 68 billion proposal which, according to four people interviewed by the Washington post, tap into unspent funds from previous relief programs as well as new funding. If all went well, that money would go to businesses such as restaurants, gyms and performance venues, which continue to face the most difficult circumstances during the pandemic. But these talks have not progressed. According to CNN, there was no buy-in from the Senate leadership, and an assistant House leadership who spoke to the network said the talks were “at extremely early stages.”

Although restaurants are once again in a cycle of openings and closings fueled by COVID, the associated government assistance that has helped many of these restaurants survive stages one and two of the pandemic has dried up. In March 2021, the $ 1.9 billion US bailout stimulus package included a $ 28.6 billion restaurant revitalization fund. Previous support has come in the form of Paycheck Protection Program loans, which put restaurants in the difficult position of having to keep a large chunk of staff on the payroll if they wanted their loans canceled. These loans, which were not aimed specifically at small businesses, quickly ran out and left restaurants that do receive them without knowing whether it would be ill-advised to actually use their loan, lest it be forgiven.

Although the Restaurant Revitalization Fund focused more on the needs of small businesses, the money quickly ran out, leaving thousands of restaurants to fend for themselves. Now, with many of those same restaurants battling another COVID-riddled winter, it seems unlikely that more money will come anytime soon.

A senior Biden administration official speaking to CNN virtually shut down the prospect of any immediate plans for another major stimulus package. The official invoked the idea that financial aid encourages laziness and deters people from working, saying: “We are not going to write checks to make people stay at home, and we are not going to bail them out. businesses if the economy looks strong “. But this idea has been rejected by real workers and ignores the risks faced by people who cannot work from home when they are immunocompromised, do not have access to health care, or have to return home to multigenerational households.

The senior official also told CNN that with the exception of “something small for restaurants,” the Biden administration does not seek to provide financial assistance when “the economy is booming, there is millions of jobs open and we don’t believe people should be sitting at home if they are vaccinated and vaccinated like most adults.

When the Restaurant Revitalization Fund portal closed on June 30, 2021, it was only able to meet the needs of less than a third of the 370,000 applicants. If this is an indicator of the kind of support restaurants and their employees need right now, “something small for restaurants” will not be enough.

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