Reaction positive to $900 billion pandemic relief bill approved by Congress Monday
Clark County businesses and area residents will soon receive some much needed assistance thanks to the $900 billion pandemic relief bill passed by Congress Monday. The relief bill includes enhanced unemployment benefits and direct cash payments. It’s the second-largest federal stimulus package after the $2 trillion CARES Act that Congress approved in March.
Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, of Washington’s Third Congressional District, applauded the final agreement on a COVID relief package in a statement issued Monday.
“With so many Americans out of work, small businesses on the brink of permanent closure, and families struggling to make ends meet, I’m relieved to have helped Congress reach agreement on another COVID relief package that will provide immediate aid to individuals and communities,’’ Herrera Beutler said. “I’ve been tirelessly working to get this relief to those who need it, both by developing the framework for the agreement with the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus and keeping the pressure on Democrat leadership with a discharge petition to circumvent D.C. gridlock and pass a small business relief bill.
“This relief should have been delivered to the American people months ago,’’ Herrera Beutler said. “Nevertheless, residents will benefit immensely from additional forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans that have been small business lifelines, an unemployment insurance extension, direct cash payments, assistance for our frontline health care providers, and funding for more readily available COVID vaccines and testing.
“I remain confident that America will get through this crisis and thrive on the other side, and I’m going to continue doing everything I can to maintain the bridge to get us there,” Herrera Beutler said.
Highlights of the COVID relief legislation include:
- $284.5 billion to reopen and strengthen the Paycheck Protection Program for first-and second-time borrowers
- Federal unemployment benefits of $300 per week, for up to 10 weeks, for the period of December 26, 2020 – March 14, 2021
- $600 Economic Impact Payments for adults and dependents
- $82 billion for schools and universities to assist with reopening for safe in-person learning
- $10 billion for grants to childcare centers to help providers safely reopen
- $68 billion for vaccine purchase, distribution, testing, and existing provider relief fund
The plan includes several items that will benefit restaurants, most importantly the second round of access to the Paycheck Protection Program, with provisions aimed to assist the restaurant industry, which continues to endure extensive job and revenue losses. From the day the industry was shut down by the pandemic, the National Restaurant Association has lobbied for both long-term and short-term economic support for the restaurant industry, including tailored changes to make PPP a more effective tool for struggling restaurants.
This plan targets restaurant relief with the following provisions:
- Enhanced PPP Loan Size: The PPP provides a business with a forgivable loan based on 2.5 times its monthly payroll costs. Restaurants, however, can seek forgivable loans based on 3.5 times monthly payroll costs.
- Enhanced Access to PPP: Companies that employ a total of 300 or more employees at all locations (combined) are deemed ineligible for the PPP. Today’s bipartisan plan reflects the reality that many mid-sized and larger restaurant groups are on the verge of bankruptcy and allows restaurants to qualify for PPP as long as they do not employ more than 300 employees at each physical location.
“The action taken by Congress today will keep tens of thousands of restaurants from closing in the coming months,” said Tom Bené, president & CEO of the National Restaurant Association. “A second round of PPP, combined with unique enhancements for the restaurant sector, will provide critical access to capital. Restaurant operators and their employees are dedicated to serving their communities, and today’s bipartisan agreement will give them the opportunity to do that through the holidays. However, the long-term economic challenges facing independent, franchise, and chain restaurants will not end with the new year, and we will continue to press federal and state leaders for the support that will put us on the road to recovery.”
In Clark County, members of the industry have been working with elected officials in Washington to address the survival of area restaurants.
“This is a good downpayment,’’ said Russell Brent, a long-time area restaurateur whose Battle Ground Mill Creek Pub closed during the pandemic. “We have been at this for months.’’
Brent serves on the board of the Northwest Wine and Food Society as well as on the Washington Hospitality Association’s Government Affairs Committee. He applauded Clark County area business leaders who recently began weekly calls with elected officials and others in the industry.
“We have our local electeds (state and federal) on the call hearing directly from operators,’’ Brent said. “Jamie Herrera Beutler has been on the call regularly and aides for Senator Maria Cantwell, Senator Patty Murray as well as Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden.
“We are unpacking this as it is a 5,500-page document, but this does address the financial support to restaurants to keep their doors open and help our team members provide for their families,’’ Brent said. “The funding may be too late for some local restaurants. According to Anthony Anton of the Washington Hospitality Association, the state has lost over $10 billion dollars in revenues since March of 2020.’’
Brent said the industry officials will continue to push for Gov. Jay Inslee to reopen restaurants “soon and safely.’’
Restaurant Reboot Program
The Northwest Wine and Food Society recently founded its Restaurant Reboot Program. Thus far, five $2,000 grants have been awarded to area restaurants and the program currently has about $60,000 more in funds to distribute to area restaurants in need of support. The program was recently boosted by a $50,000 donation from the Cowlitz Tribe.
For more information, go to the Northwest Wine and Food Society Facebook page or go to https://nwwfs.org//