WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez announced today that he has cosponsored the Restaurants Act that would provide $120 billion in federal relief for local food service, drinking establishments and caterers that have suffered financial losses due to COVID-19. Funding through the grant program will be calculated based on revenue losses between 2019 and 2020 and can be used to cover payroll up to each worker’s annual salary of $100,000, benefits, mortgage, rent, utilities, maintenance, supplies, inventory, debt obligations to suppliers and other eligible expenses.
“The social distancing and stay-at-home orders necessary to contain the spread of the virus helped flatten the curve and prevent our health system from being overrun, but the economic fallout has caused enormous pain all around. Many local restaurants, bars and catering halls have been forced to close. Workers have been laid off or furloughed. Even those establishments that were able to quickly shift to delivery, take-out or outdoor dining, are still in the red,” said Sen. Menendez. “New Jersey’s normally bustling restaurant and hospitality industry helps drive the economy in our local communities. The Restaurants Act will help give them the financial relief many need to stay open, keep people employed and drive our economic recovery.”
To ensure the funding is directed to smaller, independently-owned establishments, publicly-traded companies or chains with 20 or more locations are excluded from the grant program.
The restaurant industry has been hurt particularly hard during the pandemic with many businesses forced to close or operate at significantly reduced capacities in order to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19. Conditions only allowed New Jersey to lift statewide restrictions on indoor dining last week, but at 25% capacity.
Even with many establishments reopening, employment in the industry nationwide is down 3.1 million since February. In April alone, 5.5 million restaurant workers lost their jobs, accounting for 27% of all job losses that month.
"We appreciate Senator Menendez’s support of both the Restaurant Act legislation and the restaurant industry,” said Marilou Halvorsen, president of the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association (NJRHA). “This legislation is critical in helping small businesses across New Jersey and the country. The closures of restaurants have impacted both restaurant owners and employees. Also, restaurants are the backbone of every community.”
In May, Sen. Menendez held a virtual town hall will New Jersey restaurant owners and industry leaders, in which he listened to their concerns and stressed the need to provide direct federal assistance both to small businesses and to state and local governments to help maintain the essential services the business community depends upon.
Sen. Menendez co-authored the bipartisan State and Municipal Aid for Recovery and Transition (SMART) Act that would target $500 billion in direct funding to every town, city, county and state with priority going to the areas with the greatest need based on infection rate and lost revenues due to the pandemic.
The Restaurants Act is supported by the National Restaurant Association and the Independent Restaurant Coalition.