Restaurants pushing lawmakers to pass more COVID-19 relief so they can stay in business

WASHINGTON — Congress moved one step closer this week to giving new help to restaurants.

Owners say they need it desperately because they missed out on the first round of relief from the American Rescue Plan.

Many restaurants got a big boost from the government shortly after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when $28 billion was given out in grants.

That was gone in three weeks.

Now, restaurant owners say they’re not sure how much longer they can hang on.

Despite business improving as COVID-19 cases continue to fall, restaurant owners like Daisuke Utagawa say it’s not as good as it looks.

“You know, you saw, ‘You came back here,’ and you can find a parking space, no problem. That’s a problem,” Utagawa said.

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He owns six restaurants in Washington, DC. He applied for government grants months ago when they were available.

His neighboring restaurants received money, but he did not.

“Not only do we have a hard time staying in business, now we have to compete with our neighbors who are well capitalized,” Utagawa said.

This week, the National Restaurant Association sent a letter to members of Congress and laid out what’s at stake, saying 94% of restaurants that applied for grants didn’t receive funding.

They’re pushing for lawmakers to replenish the restaurant revitalization fund.

“It’s a real mess for restaurant industry that’s usually only making about a 5% profit margin on a good month,” said Sean Kennedy with the National Restaurant Association.

It’s estimated that 178,000 restaurants could be in danger of closing for good if they don’t get the funding.

Utagawa wonders if he could be one of them.

Members of the house signed off on more money for restaurants, but it could stall in the Senate with lawmakers headed home for two weeks for the Easter holiday.

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