Gabbard Cosponsors Bill to Help Independent Restaurants Devastated by COVID-19 Impacts

August 5, 2020, 2:16 PM HST · Updated August 5, 2:16 PM
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US Representative Tulsi Gabbard cosponsored a bill aimed at helping independent restaurants through the end of the year, as they continue to be impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

H.R.7197, as known as the Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed To Survive or RESTAURANTS Act, is a bipartisan bill.

“Nearly 100,000 Hawai‘i residents work in the independent restaurant industry which continues to be hammered hard by the coronavirus crisis. That puts enormous strain on them and their families to make ends meet and for these businesses to stay afloat. Our local restaurants are valued members of our community and this legislation provides assistance both to employees and independent restaurant owners to weather the storm of this pandemic,” said Rep. Gabbard.

Independent restaurants directly employ 11 million workers and indirectly employ 5 million more up and down the food and hospitality supply, according to backers of the bill. They are particularly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic due to the nature of how the virus spreads and the required physical distancing measures that prevent it.

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In Hawai‘i, nearly 100,000 people are employed by such restaurants — nearly 15% of the workforce — and they account for billions in sales, according to Rep. Gabbard.

The bill would establish a $120 billion restaurant revitalization fund at the Department of Treasury. Funding under the program would be available to food service or drinking establishments that are not publicly traded or part of a chain with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name.

The grant values would cover the difference between revenues from 2019 and projected revenues through 2020.

The first 14 days of the grant’s availability is only available to restaurants with annual revenues of $1.5 million or fewer, ensuring that the smallest restaurants are prioritized. Additionally, the legislation directs $60 million of administrative funding toward outreach and engagement to restaurants owned and operated by women, Veterans and people of color.

Eligible expenses include: payroll (not including employee compensation exceeding $100,000/year), benefits, mortgage, rent, utilities, maintenance, supplies (including protective equipment and cleaning materials), food, debt obligations to suppliers, and any other expenses deemed essential by the Secretary of the Treasury.

Under the bill, recipients must certify that current economic conditions make the grant request necessary, that the funds will be used to retain workers, maintain payroll, and make other payments, and that the recipient is only applying for and would only receive one grant.

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