The US Congress Has Bad News For Struggling Restaurants

Back in 2021 when it was first passed, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund was a saving grace for the many restaurants that were hit hard by COVID-19. As part of the American Rescue Plan Act, the program allotted a total of $28.6 billion in grants to the food businesses that qualified, theĀ U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports.

In 2022 however, it appears the government won't be providing any further financial assistance. According to Nation's Restaurant News, President Joe Biden's spending package, known as the omnibus spending bill, does not include a second round of Restaurant Revitalization Funds. Originally the omnibus accounted for $48 billion for restaurants, but the inclusion was allegedly turned down by Republican congress members.

But the reason for this wasn't that $48 billion was too steep of a price for the government to pay. CNN shares that this year's spending bill is actually 6% higher than last year, totaling more than $1.5 trillion. That includes increases in funding for congressional offices and staff, the IRS, schools and child nutrition programs, medical research and public health, housing aid, and the military, as well as $13.6 billion for Ukraine. Noticeably absent is any COVID-19 relief, shared the outlet, which would've included the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

For restaurants, there is still hope

For now, it may seem like the restaurants that were counting on another round of Restaurant Revitalization Funds in 2022 are out of luck, but the U.S. Senate's Small Business Chair, Senator Benjamin Cardin, isn't throwing in the towel just yet. Senior congressional reporter Lindsay McPherson, who spoke to Senator Cardin after the finalization of the omnibus, shared their exchange via Twitter, which highlighted that even though the Restaurant Revitalization Fund won't be in the spending bill, there may be a way to work around it. "I've talked to Senator Schumer already. If we can bring it to the floor as a separate bill, we might do that. We're not giving up." Senator Cardin told McPherson.

A lifeline may also come in the form of a separate COVID-19 relief bill. According to The Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently announced that since the pandemic assistance was left out of the omnibus, a standalone bill is in the works. Whether or not this bill will be passed, or if it will include aid for restaurants, is still up in the air. "We have a lively negotiation. It has to be bipartisan. We want it to be bipartisan, but in the Senate, you need 60 votes," Pelosi said, alluding to the fact that only 10 of the 50 Republican senators would need to approve of the bill for it to pass.