Saturday, October 23, 2021

Biden’s $1.9T COVID relief bill to include $25B for ailing restaurants

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WASHINGTON — A $25 billion grant program for struggling restaurants will be included in President Biden’s whopping $1.9 trillion coronavirus package — with a large chunk of that going to the Big Apple’s ailing eateries, The Post has learned.

The details of the provision are still tentative but would allow eligible food service and drinking establishments to file for grants of up to $10 million to make up for lost revenue in 2020 caused by the coronavirus pandemic, a source familiar with the negotiations said.

The fund would be available to eateries that are not part of a chain or franchise with more than 20 locations, for example, McDonald’s or Strabucks, and includes anything from restaurants, food stands, bars, wineries, pubs, to New York’s iconic food cart operators.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) pushed Biden to include the provision in his big-spending package as New York’s restaurants endure another grueling winter with no indoor dining until Valentine’s Day, the source said.

Unlike the small business paycheck protection program, Biden’s restaurant grants would not require a specific 25 percent lost revenue threshold, meaning the size of the grant would be dependent on lost revenue between 2019 and 2020.

Pedestrians walk past closed restaurants on Restaurant Row in Manhattan.AP/Mary Altaffer

Grants would not need to be paid back, unless grantees permanently closed or did not spend the grants on eligible expenses, in which case the grant turns into a low-interest loan.

A study released in October by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli estimated that as many as half of all New York City bars and restaurants could shutter permanently by April due to the pandemic.

Many of the city’s bloodline industries, including Broadway, remain closed, leaving hundreds of thousands of people out of work.

44th Street near Times Square remain closed.Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Democrats in Congress are beginning to hammer out the terms of Biden’s rescue package which is expected to pass without any Republican support using a rare tactic known as budget reconciliation.

Ten GOP lawmakers presented a $600 billion counteroffer to the president last week but many people in Biden’s orbit have said he was not interested in a scaled-down bill and will push ahead with his $1.9 trillion stimulus plan.

The package includes $1,400 stimulus checks for eligible Americans and more than $20 billion for the nation’s vaccination efforts.

Conservatives concerned with America’s ballooning federal debt have balked at passing such a huge package on the heels of a $900 billion bailout Congress passed in December.

Menus are seen at the hostess station at a closed restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen, New York.Mary Altaffer/AP

But Biden’s economic advisors, including new treasury secretary Janet Yellen, have urged lawmakers to go big to starve off lasting economic damage caused by the public health crisis which has so far killed 447,000 Americans.


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