Almost exactly one year after a pandemic was officially declared, the House of Representatives approved a $1.9 trillion plan Wednesday to help the nation through what are hoped to be the crisis’ final chapters, with $28.6 billion reserved specifically for the survival of restaurants.
The measure now moves to the White House, where President Biden has vowed to sign the historic measure into law as soon as he can lift the pen. The lift to the economy could be felt as soon as next week, when checks for $1,400 in direct aid start reaching households.
The American Rescue Plan will also spare millions of Americans from losing a federal sweetener to their state-paid unemployment benefits. The payments, dropped down by the Plan to $300 a week, were scheduled to cease starting Saturday.
Included among the beneficiaries are presumably about 2 million former restaurant workers who lost their jobs as the industry was shutdown to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Relief for restaurant owners and operators may be a little longer in coming. The $28.6 billion earmarked in the bill for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund will be allocated in grants of up to $5 million per operation by the U.S. Small Business Administration. The process for fielding and managing grant requests has yet to be developed.
About a fifth of the money will be reserved for restaurants that had 2019 revenues of under $500,000.
The money is available to operations with under 20 locations, with the amount determined by sacrificing an applicant’s 2020 revenues from its 2019 sales. The funds can be used for most operating expenses, including rent, payroll and food costs.
Additional aid is provided to restaurants through increased funding of several familiar loan and grant programs.
“Today Congress spoke with one voice in support of the restaurant industry,” Sean Kennedy, EVP of public affairs for the National Restaurant Association, said in a statement. “The Restaurant Revitalization Fund will keep doors open in restaurants large and small in every community.”
The Plan was approved along party lines, with 220 Democratic yeas besting the 211 Republican nays. Not one Republican voted for passage.