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Biden visits local Mexican restaurant to highlight relief program

Biden visits local Mexican restaurant to highlight relief program

President BidenJoe BidenMellman: Trump voters cling to 2020 tale FDA authorizes another batch of J&J vaccine Cotton warns of China collecting athletes' DNA at 2022 Olympics MORE on Wednesday made a surprise visit to a local restaurant in Washington, D.C., that is partially owned by Mexican immigrants to highlight a restaurant assistance program included in his coronavirus relief package.

Biden stopped at Taqueria Las Gemelas, a restaurant located in Northeast D.C. at Union Market, just before noon on Wednesday to visit with workers and highlight the restaurant relief program included in the American Rescue Plan and mark the Cinco de Mayo holiday.

The restaurant is partially owned by Mexican immigrants Yesenia Neri Diaz and Rogelio Martinez, according to the White House, and is receiving funds from the newly established Restaurant Revitalization Fund. The concept belongs to the restaurant group Destination Unknown Restaurants, which is also behind D.C. hot spot Espita.

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“The restaurant I visited today went from 55 employees to just seven before it started to bounce back,” Biden said later in a press conference on Wednesday. “Now as we vaccinate Americans, customers are coming back. Our vaccination progress and our economic recovery is going hand in hand.”

Biden spent over 10 minutes visiting with workers inside the restaurant. He told reporters that he ordered tacos and enchiladas as he walked out with two bags of food.

The American Rescue Plan established the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund to provide debt-free support for restaurants, bars, food trucks and other establishments, as well as cover eligible expenses such as payroll, mortgage, rent and utilities.

The Small Business Administration portal to receive applications opened on Monday.

“Right now, only about a quarter of the restaurant owners expect to return to normal operations in the next six months. We can do much better than that with the American Rescue Plan.” Biden said. “The Restaurant Revitalization fund, that’s what it’s called ... will provide direct relief to restaurants and to hard-hit food establishments. Bars, bakeries, food stands, food trucks, and caterers.”

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In the first two days, 186,200 establishments applied for relief and 61,700 applications came from small businesses with under $500,000 in annual pre-pandemic revenue, according to the White House. Women-owned establishments made up 97,600 of the applications. Initial awards through the program are expected to start going out on Friday. 

According to the White House, Taqueria Las Gemelas received funding from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that enabled owners to rehire employees they were forced to cut during the pandemic and pay back those who returned to work for time lost.

“Now, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund allows the owners of Las Gemelas to complete delayed projects, provide raises to their staff, and operate with confidence again,” the White House said.

The fund stemmed from bipartisan legislation, which was first introduced in June by Sens. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerOvernight Defense: Pentagon details military construction projects getting .2B restored from wall funds | Biden chooses former commander to lead Navy | Bill seeks to boost visa program for Afghans who helped US Senate bill would add visas, remove hurdles to program for Afghans who helped US Bipartisan bill proposes to add billion in restaurant relief funds MORE (R-Miss.) and Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaSenate to hold hearing on DC statehood bill Progressives threaten to block bipartisan infrastructure proposal Hundreds in West Virginia protest Manchin's opposition to voting rights legislation MORE (D-Ariz.). In the House, it was introduced by Reps. Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickFitness industry group hires new CEO amid lobbying push House moderates unveil .25T infrastructure plan OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden suspends Arctic oil leases issued under Trump |  Experts warn US needs to better prepare for hurricane season | Progressives set sights on Civilian Climate Corps MORE (R-Pa.), and Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerBipartisan bill proposes to add billion in restaurant relief funds White House pressed on evacuating Afghan allies as time runs out Rivers, hydropower and climate resilience MORE (D-Ore.).

Wicker has touted the fund despite voting against the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill as other Republicans did back in March. Democrats passed the bill without GOP support using budget reconciliation, a process that allowed them to bypass the 60-vote threshold to end debate on legislation in the Senate.

The White House also announced the restaurant industry added 450,000 jobs since January and that 57 percent of restaurant and bar owners plan to hire in the next six months, nearly double the amount in January.

“When the pandemic hit, restaurant owners and operators were resilient, creative, and generous. Almost overnight restaurants put in place safety measures to protect their employees and protect us,” Biden said on Wednesday. 

“They stepped up to feed our frontline workers, they changed their menus, they transitioned to take out and delivery so they could be serving people who depended on them. Even with the changes, many had to lay off or furlough workers, or close entirely,” the president added.

Wednesday’s visit was Biden’s first time stepping inside an eatery in Washington as president. Back in March, Biden participated in a similar stop to a local hardware store that received a PPP loan.

Updated at 3:17 p.m.