Today, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) announced his support of the Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive (RESTAURANTS) Act of 2020. The legislation, which was introduced by U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), would establish a $120 billion revitalization fund to help independent restaurants deal with the long-term structural challenges facing the industry because of COVID-19 and support the reemployment of 11 million workers. A companion bill was also introduced in the House by Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).
"The coronavirus pandemic has dealt a crippling blow to nearly every aspect of our economy, with independent restaurants hit especially hard," Senator Booker said. "Without a robust federal response, many of our independent restaurants face permanently shuttering, taking with them the many jobs they support across New Jersey and our nation. I am proud to support this legislation that would help lay the groundwork for the recovery of this vital industry, create more opportunities for the future, and rebuild our economy stronger."
Restaurants have been uniquely affected by COVID-19. In April alone, 5.5 million restaurant workers lost their jobs, accounting for 27 percent of total job losses in the month. Without further action from Congress, over 11 million independent restaurant workers are at risk of permanently losing their jobs. Restaurants are facing months of massive revenue losses because of government mandated social distancing, rising costs of supplies, new expenses for personal protective equipment, and a decrease in the public's willingness to dine out.
"We appreciate Senator Booker's support of both the RESTAURANTS Act and the restaurant industry as a whole," said Marilou Halvorsen, President of the NJ Restaurant & Hospitality Association. "Restaurants in New Jersey and across the country have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, and S-4012 is critical in providing real financial relief to them. Restaurants are the backbone of every community, and we urge Congress to act swiftly to give aid to the hospitality industry and other small businesses."
There are more than one million restaurant locations in the United States, including bars, independent restaurants, chain restaurants, and social caterers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the restaurant industry has lost over 6.1 million jobs -- the most of any industry and double the figure from the next most affected industry.
A recent study found that 85 percent of independent restaurants are likely to close by the end of the year if direct aid like the revitalization fund is not provided to the industry. Small independent and franchise restaurants are more at risk of permanently going out of business because of the pandemic because consumer spending at these establishments has been disproportionately affected and they lack the same access to capital markets. In whole, the recovery fund would generate at least $183 billion in primary benefits and $65 billion in secondary benefits -- more than double the amount of the proposed grants.