Wicker, Fitzpatrick seek more relief funds for restaurants

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) on May 17 joined fellow Democrats to request that Congress again increase funding for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), which provides emergency assistance for eligible restaurants, bars and other qualifying businesses impacted by COVID-19.

Sen. Wicker and Rep. Fitzpatrick, as well as U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), released a joint statement responding to the May 12 report from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) showing the latest application data results for the $28.6 billion RRF, which passed as part of the American Rescue Plan and was signed into law by President Joe Biden. 

To date, a total of $2.7 billion of relief funds have been distributed to 21,000 restaurants since the RRF opened on May 3, according to the SBA. And thus far, the RRF has received more than 147,000 applications from women, veterans and socially and economically disadvantaged business owners, who the SBA says have requested a total of $29 billion in relief funds, exceeding the fund’s current allotment.

“We knew this rescue program would see high demand given the intense need during the economic crisis,” according to the lawmakers’ statement. “While our work to prioritize those most in need — including the smallest businesses and priority groups identified in the legislation — appears to be successful in the first round, the extraordinary demand for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund shows that Congress must do more to help.” 

Toward that goal, Sen. Wicker, Rep. Fitzpatrick and their colleagues on Feb. 4 introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed To Survive (RESTAURANTS) Act of 2021, S. 255/H.R. 793, which would establish a $120 billion RRF to provide structured relief to food service or drinking establishments, according to the texts of the bills. As of May 18, H.R. 793 had 153 cosponsors while S. 255 was cosponsored by 31 senators.

“We need to work swiftly in a bipartisan way to replenish this critical fund so that all local restaurants can access the relief required for a full recovery,” the lawmakers said.