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Trade groups lament Senate defeat on economic relief for small businesses
May 20, 2022 |
Restaurant table set with silverware, glasses and candles

Senate quashes $48 billion Small Business COVID Relief Act of 2022

Restaurants, gyms and other industries suffered a setback May 19 when Congress rejected $48 billion in economic relief for pandemic losses.

The defeated legislation included $42 billion in grant money for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. The National Restaurant Association called the vote “a devastating blow to the restaurant industry and small business operators.”

“Restaurants that are still trying to make up for what was lost in the pandemic today are struggling with workforce shortages, record-high inflation and supply chain constraints,” NRA CEO Michelle Korsmo said in a statement.

The vote will cause “more economic hardships for the families and communities across the country that rely on the restaurant and foodservice industry,” Korsmo added.

The Senate quashed the $48 billion Small Business COVID Relief Act of 2022, sponsored by Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.). The legislation’s failure ended the final bid by restaurants, gyms, bus companies, venues and other small businesses to secure federal aid, Politico reported. The bill died after 52 senators voted to begin debate on the legislation; 60 yes votes were needed.

More than 177,000 restaurants did not receive grants last year from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, according to Politico. The Independent Restaurant Coalition estimates that more than half of the restaurants awaiting aid will close in the next few months because of the Senate’s vote.

“Neighborhood restaurants nationwide have held out hope for this program, selling their homes, cashing out retirement funds, or taking personal loans in an effort to keep their employees working and their doors open,” Erika Polmar, IRC executive director, said in a statement.

The vote also denied funding for the fitness industry, which argues that it is one of just a few industries that didn’t benefit from previous rounds of aid. The bill would have directed $2 billion in relief to gyms and health clubs.

“While we are disappointed by the outcome, we are heartened that our industry now has a voice and a seat at the table,” IHRSA, The Global Health & Fitness Association, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with our new champions in the House and Senate to continue strengthening our voice in Washington and work to build a brighter future for the industry.”

Also displeased with the outcome: the motorcoach industry, which lost 82.6% of its business in 2020 and another 62% in 2021, according to the American Bus Association. If the legislation had passed, it would have provided $2 billion to the motorcoach, school bus and passenger vessel industries, according to ABA.

“While the pandemic may be over for some industries, for ours it is not,” the group’s CEO Peter Pantuso said in a statement.