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Schumer is cooking up a bill to aid restaurants

Senator Chuck Schumer announced a bipartisan relief plan to aid restaurants on Feb. 21st.
Photo by Dean Moses

Senator Chuck Schumer has developed a bipartisan recipe for restaurant relief in order to bring nourishment and life back into New York City’s food industry.

As restaurants begin to expand with greater indoor dining capacity, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced plans on Feb. 21st to aid independent eateries struggling to survive.

Although indoor dining is now easing regulations and allowing more individuals to eat inside at one time, it is not expected to be enough to keep many establishments in business. At merely 35% indoor capacity (starting on Feb. 26), especially after months of closures and scrambling to build outdoor dining areas with heat, there still is not enough finances for restaurant owners to cover expenses, let alone pay rent.

According to the New York City hospitality Alliance, of 400 restaurants surveyed, about 92% of the owners said they could not afford their December rent. New York State Restaurant Association (NYSRA) shared that thousands of restaurants have closed due to the pandemic.

With this in mind, Senator Schumer joined Andrew Rigie, Executive Director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance and small business owner/chef, Amanda Cohen, at her vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy on 86 Allen Street to underscore the need to save New York City food businesses.

“Our restaurants are in trouble. Thousands more will close if we do not get them aid,” Schumer said, addressing Amanda Cohen’s restaurant Dirt Candy in the Lower East Side, which was closed for the day as workers received their COVID-19 vaccinations.

Schumer has been working on the Restaurant Act, which was included in the upcoming COVID-19 relief bill that was added to the Senate floor last week, and will be sent to the house this week. The Senator anticipates that this act will be included in the final bill.

Schumer shared that thousands of restaurants have closed, and thousands more are endanger of closing if immediate relief is not provided. Photo by Dean Moses

“New York City restaurants, their employees and the city economy need immediate federal relief to weather COVID because too many of the places we know and love could close without the help, leaving a giant hole in our local economy,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.

Schumer explained that to weather the storm of this economic crisis, restaurants need dedicated federal relief. For the Restaurant Act, he included restaurant grant assistance, which will be managed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and disseminated to eateries in need. Moreover, the money granted will be provided in addition to first and second Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance, and the Employee Retention Tax Credit.

“That is why this plan to get our restaurants ‘cooking’ again centers on getting them the dollars needed to absorb the huge losses and survive this pandemic. Including restaurant relief in the federal COVID relief plan not only makes sense, but it’s the recipe needed to keep small businesses like Dirt Candy going,” Schumer said.

These grants will be flexible and tailored to the restaurant’s needs, allowing businesses to use it to cover rent/mortgage, employee payroll, outdoor seating construction, PPE, supplies, paid leave, and other expenses (which can be spent on eligible expenses from 2/15/20 through 12/31/21).

“The restaurant industry is vital to the economic foundation and social fabric of New York City, and it has been decimated by COVID-19. Thousands of beloved restaurants and bars have permanently shuttered and countless more are teetering on the edge of survival. Our eating and drinking spots have shed over 140,000 jobs and many New Yorkers still working in the industry are underemployed. That’s why we’re proud and grateful to stand with New York’s own Senator Schumer, who is fighting hard with us to enact dedicated and structured financial support to save restaurants and jobs in the five boroughs, and around our country,” said Andrew Rigie, the Executive Director of NYC Hospitality Alliance.

Only establishments with less than 20 locations are eligible for grants and include caterers, brewpubs, taprooms, and tasting rooms. The maximum amount of grant money provided will be $10 million per restaurant group and $5 million per individual restaurant.

Amanda Cohen is one representation of a small business that has been drastically affected by the pandemic. Cohen has owned Dirt Candy for 12 years and she once managed over 35 employees, but after the pandemic that number has dropped to 6 workers. “I will not survive without more aid, it is impossible. We aren’t getting the business we used to. I used to be able to seat 90 to 100 people a night. These days we seat about 20 people. I am down 75% in profits. Unless I get a grant, not a loan. I will not survive on a loan. I’m not making enough money to pay back the loan. There is no way Dirt Candy can survive. We need this help,” Cohen implored.

In support of the food industry, Schumer dons a #SaveRestaurants mask. Photo by Dean Moses

The Restaurant Act will run through September with Schumer believing that if the crisis continues past the fall, the bill will renew thanks to its strong bipartisan support.

“Hopefully by September we will have the vaccine and enough people with the vaccine that restaurants will be able to open and New York life will come back to what it was, but New York can not live without its restaurants and restaurants can not live without aid,” Schumer said.

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