Business & Lobbying

Restaurants ask Congress for more aid as omicron ravages industry

Diners eat outside at a New York City restaurant
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The National Restaurant Association on Monday urged Congress to provide additional federal aid to restaurants that are struggling to survive a downturn driven by the omicron variant surge. 

In a letter to congressional leaders, the restaurants’ group asked lawmakers to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), a $28.6 billion fund to help struggling operators that quickly ran dry after it was passed as part of the American Rescue Plan. 

The association wrote that around half of the 177,000 eligible restaurants that missed out on federal aid will struggle to stay in business without additional support, according to a recent survey of restaurant owners.

“After two years of closures, COVID-19 variants, worker shortages, and inflationary pressure, a dangerous number of restaurants are at the end of the line. The RRF was a critical lifeline to many, but far more remain on the sidelines, desperately looking for support amid continued economic uncertainty,” Sean Kennedy, the group’s top lobbyist, wrote in the letter. 

“The decisions you make in the coming weeks will be critical to the future of the nation’s restaurant industry,” Kennedy added.

A National Restaurant Association survey found that 88 percent of restaurants saw reduced demand for indoor dining due to the omicron variant. The group estimates that the initial round of RRF grants saved 900,000 restaurant jobs and that fully replenishing the fund would save more than 1.6 million jobs. 

The restaurant industry, one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, is pushing lawmakers to include additional RRF funding in a COVID-19 relief bill for small businesses. Momentum has grown on Capitol Hill for another relief package targeting businesses that have been disproportionately damaged by the pandemic.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), chair of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, told The Hill last week that lawmakers are “pretty close” to securing the necessary support for the push.

Tags Aid Ben Cardin COVID-19 National Restaurant Association omicron Pandemic relief package Restaurants

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