WASHINGTON (WIVB) — The hospitality industry is one of the hardest-hit sectors of the economy due to the COVID pandemic. Congress is set to take up a rescue package next week, their second try after the first package ran out of money.
The lack of a social safety net while the government enforced mandates meant hundreds of restaurants and eating establishments in New York suffered cutbacks. “Many of them closed. Many of them will never open again. They were devastated,” said New York Congressman Brian Higgins. “They had to reduce their capacity, they had to do social distancing. They had to do all the things that we all had to do during the pandemic because there was no vaccine. Now they need to be made whole.”
Passed earlier this year, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund had provided $28 billion to businesses in the form of up $10 million grants. Unlike with the Payroll Protection Program, restaurant owners could use revitalization funds for just about anything. The program quickly ran out of money, but not before some bigger restaurants bought new equipment, paid wages, and worked to counteract their financial losses.
Depleted within a matter of weeks, the fund only paid out about a third of applicants. Now, Higgins says Congress is setting up a second replenishment fund of around $60 billion more. But the restaurant industry may need twice that amount, or more.
“You have to look at what the industry says is needed, and they provided very substantial information to justify that. Therefore, Congress should be approving $128 billion,” Higgins said. “Then and only then will everybody be made whole.”
Higgins said that the replenishment fund has bipartisan support—with both of New York’s senators in favor—but there is a difference of opinion when it comes to the amount. The $60 billion fund would be covered mostly by money already set aside, but an additional $128 billion would not.