On Monday, Senate Republicans unveiled a fifth round of relief aid to help Americans combat the losses incurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. Dubbed the HEALS Act, the proposed spending package is a follow up to March’s CARES Act — which brought an expansion to Federal Unemployment benefits, a $1,200 stimulus check for qualifying Americans, and programs and loans to aide small and struggling businesses.
According to CNET, the Senate Republicans’ $1 trillion HEALS Act package is set to include a continuation of the enhanced federal unemployment benefits (albeit at an undisclosed but reduced rate from CARES’ $600), an additional stimulus check of $1,200, increased Paycheck Protection Program loans to help small businesses keep employees on the payroll, and additional money and incentives for reopening schools. But according to the Independent Restaurant Coalition, the HEALS act does not offer sufficient aid to the 500,000 independent restaurants and bars that are struggling to get by as a result of the pandemic, which equates to around 11,000,000 jobs nationwide.
“Look around your neighborhood: there’s a good chance one of your favorite restaurants or bars has closed forever. The longer Congress waits to deliver relief to independent restaurants, the more businesses risk permanently shuttering and wiping out at least 16 million jobs across the country,” begins a statement released by the IRC after Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell officially announced the stimulus plan on Monday, July 27th, noting that restaurants need direct relief rather than additional loans.
“The changes to the Paycheck Protection Program… are a good start, but independent restaurants don’t need another loan when we are accumulating more debt and taking more losses due to circumstances out of our control… we need immediate relief now.”
The statement — drafted and signed by José Andrés, Sean Brock, Tom Colicchio, Nina Compton, Gregory Gourdet, Will Guidara, Ivy Mix, Kwame Onwuachi, Nancy Silverton, Andrew Zimmern and scores of other premier chefs — points out that the restaurant industry has been the hardest hit as a result of countrywide closures, as lockdown orders make it hard for independent eateries to remain open and continue to pay their full staff of employees. As it stands, the HEALS Act is unlikely to pass. It’s already being met with pushback from Senate Democrats, but the clock is ticking. The CARES Act is set to expire on July 31st and the Senate is quickly approaching a recess scheduled for August 7th.