Stimulus Update: As US COVID Cases Surge, Congress Considers Relief Funding for Restaurants

Senate Republicans hold a news conference on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Washington, District of Columbia, USA - 02 Nov 2021

The US reached a record-breaking number of COVID-19 cases this week, breaching over a million cases in a single day on Jan. 3. Given that the restaurant industry has been one of the hardest hit throughout the pandemic, reports are now suggesting that legislators are in early talks to provide the sector with some form of economic relief moving into 2022.

Tony Romm of The Washington Post reports that lawmakers from both parties are in talks concerning a potential proposal to give billions of dollars to the restaurant industry — and other businesses — in order to mitigate further economic damage to these pressured enterprises. The report claims that the money will help an array of businesses including restaurants, performance venues, gyms and even minor league sports teams that face another potential blow to their “already-battered balance sheets as a result of the evolving pandemic,” per Romm.

Democratic Senator Ben Cardin and Roger Wicker, Republican senator from Mississippi, are reportedly leading the talks. The two senators had put together a $68 billion proposal in December. Per Insider, Cardin told reporters on Jan. 5 that “we started with restaurants but we’re prepared to expand it if we can have the necessary support… there’s other industries that have legitimate concerns.”

Although the country is in a far different place now than in the early days of the pandemic — the unemployment rate is far lower and life-saving vaccines have largely facilitated some semblance of normalcy — the ever-growing omicron variant has recently begun to stifle economic progress.

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Offices throughout the country, particularly on Wall Street, have once again pushed back their return to on-site work as caseloads in New York and other major cities surge. Supply-chain disruptions that have wreaked havoc on the global economy for the better part of 2021 are still continuing to stifle economic growth into 2022, and omicron caseloads are certainly partly to blame for continued anxieties.

While federal unemployment benefits ended last September for those hit hard by the pandemic, relief funding targeting sectors significantly threatened by omicron could help avoid shutdowns and business closures like those seen over the past few years.

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