WASHINGTON – A collective sigh of relief could be heard in Washington and across the country on the news On December 27, President Donald Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which included $ 900 billion for debt relief. COVID-19 as well as funding for federal agencies and programs to ensure there is no government shutdown.
The new COVID-19 relief program includes provisions that will provide much-needed additional support to the restaurant industry as well as nutritional assistance programs and providers.
Support for the much larger $ 2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES), which became law in March 2020, has been slashed, rendering the securing the current relief program all the more urgent. Still, it was likely that Congress will have to consider additional relief legislation in the new year.
The paycheck protection program established under CARES has been extended and revised under the current relief program. The PPP provides forgivable loans to small businesses to help them keep their facilities open and their workforce employed.
Businesses that have received a PPP loan under CARES are eligible to apply for a second loan, or a second draw, under the renewed PPP as long as they have used or will use the full amount of their first loans and they meet the other revised eligibility conditions. Companies that did not receive a PPP loan under CARES were invited to apply for a loan under the renewed program.
One of the main goals of the National Restaurant Association was to expand the PPP. The renewed PPP includes some changes sought by the NRA that were to make it a more effective tool for troubled restaurants.
First, the revised PPP will provide a loan amount up to 3.5 times the average monthly wage costs recorded in the year before the loan, or the previous calendar year, for companies in the accommodation industries. and catering, such as restaurants, compared with loan amounts up to 2.5 times the average monthly wage costs for businesses in other industries. The maximum loan amount in any case was $ 2 million.
Second, the revised PPP has increased accessibility. Catering and accommodation businesses with 300 or fewer employees per location are eligible to apply for a PPP loan. This is compared to the requirement for other companies to have 300 employees or less in total, spread across all of their sites.
Under the original PPP rules as established by CARES, businesses with less than 500 total employees could apply for a loan.
The NRA said the changes to the eligibility requirements in the revised PPP reflected “the reality that many mid-sized and larger restaurant groups are on the verge of bankruptcy and allow restaurants to qualify for the PPP so long. that they do not employ more than 300 employees at each physical location.
Tom Bené, chief executive officer of the NRA, said the relief plan “will prevent tens of thousands of restaurants from closing in the months to come. A second round of PPP, combined with unique enhancements for the restaurant industry, will provide essential access to capital.
“However, the long-term economic challenges facing independent restaurants, franchises and restaurant chains 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, ”said Bené.
The NRA viewed the COVID-19 relief plan as a “down payment” on what might be needed to ensure the recovery of the restaurant industry.
The NRA urged Congress to ccreate a restaurant recovery fund for structured relief to help restaurants get the cash flow they need to adjust, rehire and eventually reopen.
“This includes the adoption of the Senate bill on RESTAURANTS,” the NRA said.
The NRA also called for the establishment of a long-term loan program beyond the PPP. so restaurants can rehire, retrain and retain employees by providing up to six months of operating costs and additional support.
Food aid providers also viewed the COVID-19 relief program as a down payment on assistance that may be needed.
The back-up plan increased the monthly SNAP benefit level by 15% based on the Thrifty Food plan from June 2020 through June 2021 and excluded Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (UPC) benefits from being taken. counted in household income for SNAP. The package also extended SNAP eligibility to students who are eligible for a federal or state work study program or who have an expected family contribution of zero.
The program has invested an additional $ 400 million in the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) until September 30, 2021. This program is one of the largest sources of food for food banks.
COVID-19 assistance will also provide $ 13 million for the Supplemental Food Staple Food Program through September 30, 2021, and provide urgently needed assistance to help school meals, child care programs. children and adults in need.
Additionally, the relief program requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture to establish a Food Delivery Patterns Working Group for Special Supplementary Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) participants to that they have access to curbside pickup and other safe shopping methods during a pandemic.
“We are deeply relieved that the bipartite COVID relief deal includes increased benefits under SNAP, as well as additional funding so that our food bank network can continue to meet the increased needs they see every day. “said Kate Leone, head of government. relationship manager at Feeding America. “As our country continues to face a health and economic emergency once in a generation, the bipartite agreement is an important down payment to help deliver the food aid our neighbors need, but other measures will also be needed. In the coming months. . “