Hard hit hospitality industry could see relief with proposed federal funding

Western New York

(WIVB) — It is one of the hardest-hit sectors of the economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic — the hospitality industry. And Congress are set to take up a rescue package next week. This would be their second try after the first package ran out of money.

It was called the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, $28 billion which provided businesses with grants of up $10 million, and unlike the Payroll Protection Program, restaurant owners could use the money for just about anything. The fund quickly ran out of money.

“Many of them closed, many of them will never open again. They were devastated,” said Representative Higgins.

Congressman Brian Higgins talking about the hundreds of restaurants and eating establishments in New York that have suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic forced to cut back because of government mandates.

“They had to reduce their capacity, they had to do social distancing. They had to do all the things that we all had to do during the pandemic because there was no vaccine. Now they need to be made whole,” added Higgins.

Earlier this year, Congress established a Restaurant Revitalization Fund to offset the staggering losses those businesses suffered during the emergency, a $28 billion fund that some of Buffalo’s larger restaurants benefitted from. The money could be used for just about anything, and restaurants put their grants toward their financial losses, buying new equipment, covering payroll and more.

But within a matter of weeks, the entire $28 billion was gone and only about a third of the applicants got any money. Now Higgins says Congress is setting up a second fund, nearly tripling the amount to $60 billion more in a replenishment fund, but Higgins says the restaurant industry believes it needs twice that much.

“You have to look at what the industry says is needed, and they provided very substantial information to justify that. Therefore, Congress should be approving $128 billion. Then and only then will everybody be made whole,” Higgins said.

Higgins told us the replenishment fund has bipartisan support, with both of New York’s senators in favor, but there is a difference of opinion when it comes to the amount. The $60 billion fund would be covered mostly by money already set aside the $128 billion would not.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here. To submit a Call 4 Action, click here.

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