(Natural News) A number of businesses badly affected by the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are asking the federal government for additional aid to stay afloat. These businesses, which include restaurants, gyms and hotels, claimed coronavirus restrictions caused them to suffer financial losses. Prior to this new tranche of stimulus money, the Biden administration implemented the American Rescue Plan worth $1.9 trillion to assist businesses hard hit by the pandemic.
Aside from the American Rescue Plan, the Small Business Administration‘s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program delivered almost $800 billion in short-term grants to almost 12 million businesses. However, some business owners have claimed current federal aid is not enough to tide them over.
According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), the restaurant industry lost $290 billion in revenue during the pandemic. While more restaurants have increased hiring, capacity limits in some areas still hindered efforts to bounce back. Furthermore, advocates for the industry said many restaurant owners are in debt and will soon owe back rent. NRA Executive Vice President of Public Affairs Sean Kennedy said: “We’re still incredibly vulnerable.”
Restaurant owner Amy Long is another entrepreneur who bore the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic on the industry. Her catering business in Texas has incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt just to stay afloat. Long has also struggled to rehire workers as she is unable to offer full-time hours – something she was able to do before the pandemic. “We cannot continue to operate at our current level of sales without additional help. We won’t make it to September,” she lamented.
Lawmakers from both parties have expressed their support to a new tranche of federal aid – which is good news for Long and other business owners. Legislators argued that many businesses – especially restaurants – did not get enough assistance from earlier aid programs. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), House Small Business Committee ranking member, said the restaurant industry had been “hit pretty hard” and had been among “one of the last groups to get relief funds.”
“Most of the folks on my side of the aisle are not opposed to some additional funding,” Luetkemeyer added. However, he believed that other unused federal funds could be redirected for this purpose.
It’s not just restaurants: Hotels and gyms are also lobbying for federal aid
Back in March of this year, Congress first approved the SBA’s Restaurant Revitalization Program with $28.6 billion in funding. It has since received applications amounting to $75 billion in applications, leaving many businesses on the sidelines.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the upper and lower houses of Congress introduced a bill seeking a new round of assistance for restaurants. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), together with Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) sponsored the bill allocating $60 billion to keep restaurants afloat. “If people pay attention to what’s going on in their community, I think they’ll find there’s broad support for this,” Blumenauer said.
Concurrently, gym owners and hotel operators are lobbying for grants. But it is unclear if they will get the same response as that of restaurants. A bipartisan effort has kicked things off for fitness centers, with Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) proposing $30 billion of federal aid. Gyms benefiting from this program could receive up to $25 million.
Meanwhile, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced a bill allocating $20 billion in grants to support hotel worker payroll and benefits expenses. But the bill would require recipients to give laid-off employees recall rights to enable their return to work. Hotel operators who do not comply with the bill’s guidelines would see their grant funding taken away.
Schatz’s bill gained the support of hotel worker union UNITE HERE and the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA). According to AHLA President and CEO Chip Rogers, earlier versions of the bill leaned more toward hotel operators and were not 100 percent for employees. However, the hotel trade group decided that joining the union and focusing on workers ensured a greater chance of success.
“Part of our job is to remind people that this industry could never survive on leisure travel alone, even under the best-case scenario. While you see people taking vacations, we recognize that until large meetings and conventions … [and] traditional business travel come back, we’re not going to be able to fully recover. That’s why the help is needed,” Rogers said.
Industry lobbyists have nevertheless admitted that convincing legislators to allow new tranches of federal grants on businesses that have survived the pandemic will be a challenge. Economic Innovation Group President and CEO John Lettieri meanwhile expressed skepticism over the need for new relief programs at the current stage of pandemic recovery.
But the head of the American think tank continued that there was a solid case for restaurants to seek additional stimulus money. This is because the existing program “has been widely viewed as underfunded and unable to accommodate demand.”
Pandemic.news has more stories about federal assistance for businesses impacted by COVID-19.