Congress to provide more restaurants with coronavirus relief money

WASHINGTON, DC — The United States House of Representatives on Thursday voted largely along party lines to add an additional $42 billion to a coronavirus relief fund for restaurants and hotels. The money would help more than 150,000 institutions across the country that have missed out on previous emergency grants.

House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said only a third of restaurants that applied for help from the original Small Business Administration program received money. He said more than 90,000 restaurants and bars have closed during the pandemic, and the Independent Restaurant Coalition predicts many more restaurants could close without additional help.

The legislation also includes $13 billion for a new “hard-hit industries reward program” that would help small businesses that have struggled to operate during the pandemic, such as gyms, health clubs, salons, concert halls and other establishments where people could not congregate. during the pandemic, Hoyer said.

He said the aid money would come from funds recovered from people who fraudulently exploited previous relief programs.

The House Small Business Committee’s top Republican, Missouri’s Blaine Leutkemeyer, dismissed the bill as an example of “out of control” spending. He said the government should instead reduce regulations and “prioritize cutting taxes so that small business owners and their employees can keep more of their hard-earned money.”

“We just have to get out of this COVID economy,” Leutkemeyer said. “In my opinion, this is an irresponsible bill… This is about economic independence.”

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said the bill appears to be primarily deficit-funded and criticized the House of Representatives for approving it before the Congressional Budget Office could assess its fiscal impact.

“The government has already authorized over $6 trillion in COVID relief,” the watchdog organization’s chairwoman, Maya MacGuineas, said in a statement. “With inflation soaring, debt near record highs and unemployment at pre-pandemic levels, now is not the time to do more. Instead, we should be cutting deficits to help the Federal Reserve to control inflation.

The bill’s Senate counterpart has been referred to its small business committee. US Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, is a co-sponsor.

U.S. Representative Tim Ryan, a Niles-area Democrat who backed the bill, said restaurants in Ohio got $586 million in the first round of funding. He said the new hard-hit industries program will help Ohio small businesses with 200 or fewer employees that have experienced a revenue loss of 40% or more and were not eligible for previous COVID-19 grants or awards. .

“Ohio’s nearly one million small businesses are essential to our economy, employing nearly half of all workers in the state,” said a statement from U.S. Representative Shontel Brown, a local Democrat. of Cleveland who voted for the bill. “The US bailout has helped thousands of small businesses survive and enabled their employees to support their families. This bill would build on that success by giving eligible restaurants another chance to access assistance and establishing a new program to support the hardest-hit small businesses in northeast Ohio.

AP File Photo | Brittany Newman

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