In a letter to Congress, the National Restaurant Association said that replenishing the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) would save more than 1.6 million precarious restaurant jobs, protecting a vital economic sector. The letter lays out that the restaurant industry still hasn’t recovered the more than 650,000 jobs lost early in the pandemic amid a surge in coronavirus cases, inflation, labor shortages, and supply chain delays.
In the Jan. 24 letter, the association notes the devastating impact the omicron variant has had so far — and the positive impact the RRF had on the industry, as the first round of funding ostensibly saved more than 900,000 jobs and helped 96% of grant recipients remain in business.
The $28.6 billion RRF closed in July 2021 and provided relief to more than 100,000 restaurants and other food and beverage businesses across the nation, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA). The program provided restaurants with funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss up to $10 million per business — and no more than $5 million per physical location — and the average award was $283,000, according to the SBA.
“After two years of closures, COVID-19 variants, worker shortages, and inflationary pressure, a dangerous number of restaurants are at the end of the line. The RRF was a critical lifeline to many, but far more remain on the sidelines, desperately looking for support amid continued economic uncertainty,” Sean Kennedy, executive vice president for Public Affairs at the National Restaurant Association, wrote in the letter. “The decisions you make in the coming weeks will be critical to the future of the nation’s restaurant industry.”
According to the association’s data, nearly 50% of restaurant operators that did not receive RRF grants feel it’s unlikely that they will stay in business beyond the pandemic without a grant. Further, RRF data suggests 94% of restaurant operators that applied for an RRF grant, but did not receive funding, said a future grant would enable them to retain or hire back employees.
As a result of the omicron variant, 88% of restaurants experienced a decline in customer demand for indoor on-premises dining; 76% of operators report that business conditions are worse now than three months ago; and 74% say their restaurant is less profitable now than it was before the pandemic, according to the data.
“The restaurant industry is at an inflection point, and we need your leadership now more than ever… restaurant recovery is paralyzed and nowhere near complete. Congress must act now to replenish the RRF in the upcoming legislative package to fund the government,” Kennedy added in the letter.
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