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Business groups issue both praise and criticism on COVID relief bill's passage

Business groups issue both praise and criticism on COVID relief bill's passage
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Democrats' $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, which the House passed on Wednesday, is being cheered by some industries while others say they're being left empty-handed.

The legislation, which largely helps American families through vaccination efforts and stimulus checks, heads to President BidenJoe BidenBiden administration still seizing land near border despite plans to stop building wall: report Olympics, climate on the agenda for Biden meeting with Japanese PM Boehner on Afghanistan: 'It's time to pull out the troops' MORE’s desk, where he is set to sign it on Friday.

Industry groups have advocated for their businesses to receive special considerations in coronavirus relief for the past year, and the American Rescue Plan is mixed in how many advocates can claim success.

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Restaurants

The restaurant and bar industry got a win with a $28.6 billion grant program, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which will provide debt-free support for restaurants, bars, breweries and other similar businesses, as well as cover eligible expenses such as payroll, mortgage, rent and utilities. 

Legislation to provide direct support to the industry, the RESTAURANTS ACT, was introduced in June, but direct funds didn’t make it into the most recent December coronavirus aid package. 

“Today Congress spoke with one voice in support of the restaurant industry. The Restaurant Revitalization Fund will keep doors open in restaurants large and small in every community,” said Sean Kennedy, National Restaurant Association executive vice president of public affairs.

The alcohol industry also celebrated the fund, which is available to taverns, bars, tasting rooms, taprooms and other venues. 

“Our nation’s restaurants, bars and distilleries are in desperate need of relief, and this bill is a great place to start,” the Distilled Spirits Council said in a statement. 

Airlines

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Airlines got a $15 billion boost and an extension of the Payroll Support Program, which was a key provision in last spring's CARES Act that was set to expire April 1. 

The boost will extend the program through Sept. 30 and give $14 billion to support workers of air carriers and $1 billion for workers of eligible contractors.

The program has already received $40 billion from Congress — $25 billion in the CARES Act and $15 billion in the December stimulus package — and those funds were set to expire on April 1. 

Biden’s original proposal didn’t include funds for airlines, but House Democrats added it as part of a larger transportation boost early last month. Airlines had warned that tens of thousands of employees could be furloughed without an extension. 

Joe DePete, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, called the extension an “important aspect of the overall legislation [that] will help keep our aviation industry poised to quickly respond to increased operations as demand returns.” 

U.S. airports also received $8 billion from the package, bringing the total support the sector has received from Congress throughout the pandemic to $20 billion.

Travel

The travel industry overall didn’t get much help from the package.

The U.S. Travel Association has advocated for changes to the Paycheck Protection Program and travel tax credits, neither of which made it into the final legislation.

“The American Rescue Plan contains many good features, but there’s something crucial that Congress must accomplish to restore the millions of travel-dependent jobs lost to the pandemic: extend the Paycheck Protection Program deadline through at least June, and allow another draw on those funds for the hardest-hit employers,” U.S. Travel Association President Roger Dow said in a statement.

Sen. Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoTo encourage innovation, Congress should pass two bills protecting important R&D tax provision RNC rolls out ad campaign hitting Democrats over election reform Senators introduce bipartisan bill to expand electric vehicle charging tax credit MORE (D-Nev.) has introduced legislation to provide stimulus to the industry, which advocates are still hopeful could pass separately.  

The bill would provide temporary business tax credits to revitalize business meetings, conferences and other events, and provide an individual tax credit to stimulate non-business travel, among other things. 

Child care

The package includes $39 billion in child care relief, which includes $15 billion for a grant program and $24 billion for a child care stabilization fund. Congress provided $15 billion in child care relief in previous packages and this aid brings the total for the industry up to $54 billion since the start of the pandemic.

The First Five Years Fund (FFYF), which advocates for the child care industry, said it is grateful that allies on Capitol Hill prioritized the needs of the youngest learners and child care providers.

“This relief can’t come soon enough for the countless thousands of early learning facilities across the country that have been hanging on by a thread hoping Congress would deliver enough support to effectively stabilize the child care industry,” said Sarah Rittling, FFYF executive director.

Gyms

The gym industry, which has been struggling throughout the pandemic due to lockdowns and the lack of clients, didn’t get any relief in the package. 

Reps. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyLobbying world Business groups issue both praise and criticism on COVID relief bill's passage On The Money: Biden signals he'll move forward on COVID-19 relief without GOP | Economy adds 49K jobs in January | Minimum wage push sparks Democratic divisions MORE (D-Ill.) and Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickHouse panel opens probe into Tom Reed over sexual misconduct allegations Fitzpatrick replaces Tom Reed as House Problem Solvers co-chair The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by Facebook — Biden delivers 100 million shots in 58 days, doses to neighbors MORE (R-Pa.) introduced legislation last month to provide $30 billion in grants to gym and fitness studios. That legislation now has over 50 co-sponsors and would help roughly 40,000 facilities, according to the Community Gyms Coalition. 

The coalition said in a statement that it is disappointed Congress didn’t include the bill in the coronavirus relief package.

“Now, the livelihood of 3.2 million Americans who work in the fitness industry is on the line. After enduring a year of closures and restrictions, the survival of America’s small gyms and fitness studios is at serious risk. The Biden Administration must make this a priority and ensure any future relief bill helps the tens of thousands of small businesses struggling right now and the millions of jobs they support,” the coalition said in a statement.

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Small businesses 

Advocates for small businesses applauded the stimulus checks, which will help small business customers return to shopping, as well as vaccinations. 

Small Business for America’s Future, a coalition of owners, plans to continue advocating for further simplification of the forgiveness process for the Paycheck Protection Program loans, as well as affordable health care options for entrepreneurs and employees, and other issues.