As pandemic subsides, businesses push Congress for one more bailout

“We are still incredibly vulnerable,” said Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public affairs for the National Restaurant Association.

Lobbying is gaining traction, and Republicans are signing bills to grant grants to restaurants and gyms even as the GOP is reluctant to oppose President Joe Biden’s multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure spending plans. Both parties lawmakers sympathize with companies that have been forced to shut down, and they say that many have not received enough help from previous aid programs.

“Most of the people on my side of the aisle are not against additional funding,” said Blaine Luetkemeyer, Rep. Of Missouri, the Republican leader on the House Small Business Committee, who still opposes Biden’s spending plans.

Last week, a bipartisan group of legislators in the House and Senate tabled a bill that would allocate $ 60 billion to a new round of grants for restaurants. The main sponsors are Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) And Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) With Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) And Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.).

Congress first established a $ 28.6 billion small business administration scholarship program in March – and has since received $ 75 billion in motions, leaving tens of thousands of restaurants on the sidelines.

The replenishment of the restaurant program is supported by the Democratic Chairs of the Small Business Committees of the House and Senate. Top Republicans are also open to the idea, although some like Lütkemeyer want to find a way to recycle other unused federal funds.

“You have been hit pretty hard,” said Lütkemeyer about restaurants. “They were one of the last groups to get relief here.”

Although restaurant recruitment is on the rise, the National Restaurant Association lost $ 290 billion in sales during the pandemic, and capacity still remains in some areas, according to the National Restaurant Association. Many restaurant owners are in debt and will soon pay back rent, proponents say.

“If people pay attention to what is going on in their community, I believe they will find broad support for it,” said Blumenauer.

Small employers hold a special place in the hearts of lawmakers, as evidenced by the overwhelming support for the Paycheck Protection Program in its various iterations over the past year. Many turn to their representatives again for help.

Amy Long, co-founder of the Richardson, Texas-based Orchard office, said her catering company owed hundreds of thousands of dollars to stay alive during the pandemic. She is struggling to reinstate workers because she is unable to offer full-time hours as she did before Covid-19. She is part of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, which is pushing Congress to pass the grant bill.

“Without additional help, we cannot continue to work at our current sales level,” she said. “We won’t make it to September.”

John Lettieri, president and CEO of the think tank of the Economic Innovation Group, said he was skeptical about the need for new aid programs for employers at this stage of the recovery. But Lettieri said restaurants had a “solid case” because the existing program was “widely viewed as underfunded and unable to meet demand”.

At the same time, fitness studio and hotel operators are campaigning for completely new funding programs. It’s unclear if they’ll get the same level of appeal as restaurants.

Sens. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill. And Jerry Moran, R-Kan. Have proposed a bill that approves $ 30 billion for fitness facilities that could receive grants of up to $ 25 million.

Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) introduced a bill that provides $ 20 billion in grants to support payroll and hotel employee benefits. Legislation would require recipients to give redundant workers a right of withdrawal so they can return to their jobs and would reclaim funds if operators fail to follow the guidelines of the bill.

The Hotel Aid Act is endorsed not only by the American Hotel & Lodging Association, but also by the hotel workers’ union UNITE HERE.

Chip Rogers, the president and CEO of the hospitality group, said earlier versions of the proposal were not 100 percent for employees and included more support for the operators themselves. However, Rogers said the group had decided that by joining the union and focusing on the workers would have a much greater chance of success.

“Part of our job is to remind people that even at its best, this industry could never survive on recreational travel alone,” he said. “As you see people taking vacation, we realize that we cannot fully recover until large meetings and conventions come back and traditional business travel returns. That is why help is needed. “

In May, a whole new lobby alliance was formed to convince Congress to give more financial aid to businesses. The Economic Bridge Coalition has grown to 13 members, including the American Rental Association, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, the Professional Photographers Association, and the American Horse Council.

“PPP has been very helpful, but now the problem is not so much relief, it’s rebuilding,” said John McClelland, vice president of government affairs for the American Rental Association, which represents the equipment and event rental industry. “How can we win these companies back and make them successful sooner rather than later?”

Lobbyists admit that convincing lawmakers to spend billions of dollars more on companies that survived the pandemic will be a challenge.

With the majority of adults fully vaccinated and safety restrictions being relaxed, the biggest concern for the economy is that it could overheat and that it simply doesn’t have enough manpower and materials.

The Federal Reserve signaled on Wednesday that it could hike rates earlier than expected, suggesting the economy is expanding rapidly after the US unemployment rate fell to 5.8 percent in May. Recent polls by the National Federation of Independent Business found that small business optimism rose steadily for much of this year, but paused in May as labor shortages slowed growth.

“Science shows that widespread vaccines allow companies to reopen safely,” said North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry, top Republican on the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee. “We should focus on addressing the current employer problem: not enough employees applying to fill the jobs that keep their businesses going.”

And even as the Covid-19 restrictions were recently lifted, tens of billions of dollars in aid continued to flow to businesses. There is still more to be paid out.

The SBA on Wednesday called on the media to spread the news that there is still about $ 30 billion in disaster grants available for hard-hit businesses in low-income communities. The SBA is also struggling to distribute $ 16 billion in grants to live arts and entertainment venues after encountering severe technical and operational difficulties that caused the program to fail. The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program only approved $ 531.4 million in grants, despite more than $ 11 billion in applications.

“I’ve heard this from members on both sides of the aisle,” said McClelland. “That we spent a lot of money here folks. We have to move on to something else. ‘”

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