A coalition representing thousands of restaurant owners urged Congress to create a $120 billion stabilization fund to provide relief to half a million restaurants struggling to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter to Senate and House leadership, the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) noted that the restaurant industry has been the top contributor to the country’s skyrocketing unemployment and that the majority of the restaurants it represents “stand on the very brink of survival.”
“In order for us to serve your communities again and to assist in reigniting the economy, independent restaurants need critical support from the federal government,” the IRC wrote.
“Therefore, we respectfully request Congress establish the Independent Restaurant Stabilization Fund to ensure restaurants will receive the necessary capital to reopen and stay open.”
The economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has hit an array of industries, sending more than 26 million people into unemployment in the past several weeks. According to the IRC, 40 percent of restaurants are closed and the remaining 60 percent are operating at “severely depressed revenue levels,” an issue the group said has reverberations for other industries.
“Independent restaurants indirectly contribute millions of jobs for every business large and small that relies on a healthy travel industry from airlines and hotels to parking garages and retail. Further, independent restaurants directly support hundreds of thousands of jobs and small businesses, including farmers, fishermen, distributors and the service sector,” the group wrote.
The group also warned that while some restaurants will be able to reopen in some states with limited dine-in capacity, the institutions will not be able to be fully made whole again for several months.
“With future requirements to modify dining rooms and reduce seating (effectively limiting revenue by upwards of 50%) and additional mandates for protective items and cleaning measures raising costs, restaurants will not be 'back to normal' anytime soon. Congress must provide stabilization for this industry through 2020 or we will be pushing millions back into unemployment,” the IRC wrote.
The IRC requested that any funds approved by Congress not be granted to any publicly traded restaurant or “large restaurant chain or franchise,” last through 2020 and prioritize underrepresented communities.