WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) announced today that he is cosponsoring a bipartisan effort to deliver an additional $60 billion in federal pandemic relief to help struggling restaurants and bars stay open, cover COVID-related expenses, and pay their employees, rent and utilities. The bill would replenish the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund that was established in the American Rescue Plan but quickly ran out of funding due to high demand.
“The Restaurant Revitalization Fund that we created in the American Rescue Plan was a huge success. It delivered targeted relief to struggling restaurants, bars, and other eateries to help them stay open, keep paying their employees, and continue serving their customers and communities, but the demand was enormous and money quickly ran out. Our bill replenishes that fund to ensure more food and drink establishments in need have access to federal funding,” said Sen. Menendez. “As our economy continues to reopen, if we want to fully recover, we must continue to support our mom and pop diners, restaurants and bars that are often the centers of a community’s culture and social life where family and friends gather to grab a drink, share a meal, and celebrate milestones.”
The food service industry has been one of the hardest-hit sectors due to necessary lockdowns and restaurant capacity limits imposed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurant and food service sales dropped $290 billion between March 2020 and April 2021, 1.5 million restaurant jobs have been lost, and more than 90,000 establishments have suffered permanent or long-term closures. In New Jersey, restaurant employment is down more than 18% from pre-pandemic levels.
In March, Sen. Menendez visited the Madison Bar & Grill in Hoboken to announce the creation of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund and how it could help New Jersey establishments. The fund saw record participation with over 270,000 independent restaurants in cities and towns across the country applying for relief.
The Restaurant Revitalization Fund is based on the RESTAURANTS Act, bipartisan legislation cosponsored by Sen. Menendez. The program provides up to $10 million in grants to eligible restaurants, bars and eateries. The funds can be used to cover the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other upgrades to protect customers and staff from COVID, in addition to payroll, mortgage or rent, supplies, utilities, paid sick leave and other operational expenses. These grants do not need to be repaid.