Photo: Hailey Bollinger
It’s not news that the coronavirus pandemic and its resultant business closures have devastated both the national and local restaurant industry.
That’s why part of the $2.2 trillion federal CARES Act was slated to go toward offering small businesses, including restaurants, some financial relief. The bill’s Paycheck Protection Program set aside $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses so they could pay their employees, their rent, their utility costs, etc. But that initial round of funding ran out quickly, with many independent businesses seeing nothing.
(Conversely, publicly traded, international chain Ruth’s Chris steakhouse received $20 million from the bailout. Potbelly Sandwich Shop, another international chain, got $10 million. So did Shake Shack —although Shake Shack has returned their loan after public uproar.)
The Ohio Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association aren’t waiting and have crafted their own Restaurant Blueprint for Recovery action plan.
ORA President and CEO John Barker says that 300,000 restaurant employees have been laid off or furloughed since March. Nationwide, that number is 8 million says the ORA, based on feedback from a nationwide survey.
“Our industry and our people are dealing with the devastating impact from the COVID-19 crisis following the state’s order on March 15 to close dine-in at restaurants. Each day that goes by with closed restaurants pushes operators closer to shuttering permanently,” Barker says in a release.
The ORA and National Restaurant Association survey showed that, nationally, four out of 10 restaurants have closed their doors and some have no hope of reopening. In Ohio, that number is closer to five out of 10. And 60 percent of restaurant owners say “existing federal relief programs — including the CARES Act — will not enable them to keep their employees on payroll throughout the downturn.”
“These alarming facts are very troubling when you consider our industry employs the second largest workforce in the U.S. and Ohio,” Barker says. “It’s been more than six weeks since business closed for many, but their fixed costs such as rent are still due, taxes are deferred but will still be required, and cash flow has evaporated for most operators.”
So the Restaurant Blueprint for Recovery is asking the U.S. Department of Treasury to create a $240 billion emergency fund for the restaurant and foodservice industry, which the ORA says represents 51 percent of all food dollars in the nation.
“We appreciate the stimulus and relief provided to businesses in the CARES Act and several steps by the state of Ohio defer taxes and call for rent relief. However, the federal government’s major stimulus and relief act — the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) — does not work for our operators due to the unique nature of the restaurant industry,” says Barker. “This is a tight margin and cash flow business, and most restaurants are not able to put people back to work until the closure order is lifted.”
The plan also asks the government to fix and replenish the PPP fund, create a Healthy Restaurants tax credit or grant program, provide relief for the employer’s share of unemployment insurance, increase funding for Economic Injury Disaster Loans and to expand the Restaurant Meals Program (RMP) to serve all Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants during the COVID-19 crisis.
That last request is part of a “SNAP COVID-19 Anti-Hunger Restaurant Relief for You Act of 2020,” which will be introduced by Representative Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT). The request says, “As millions of Americans are struggling to feed their families during this unprecedented crisis, the SNAP CARRY Act will provide more vital food access points for hungry people and the ability for restaurants to continue serving Americans.”
And in regards to the PPP, Barker says it’s “critically important” that Congress and the Treasury amend the program.
“This is urgent as expenses continue for businesses and we face a future where restaurants suffer from a slow economic recovery due to requirements we anticipate for retail businesses — including social distancing, capacity limits and face coverings, plus additional capital costs for physical plant adjustments, restocking food inventory, rehiring, training and marketing,” he says. “Many operators expect dine-in business to return at less than 50 percent of previous sales levels.”
The alteration to the PPP process is also one Senator Rob Portman said he, as a restaurant owner (the Portman family owns the Golden Lamb), backs.
“We must make reforms to the Paycheck Protection Program to provide increased flexibility for small businesses like restaurants, bars, and theaters that will not be able to immediately return to full operations,” he said in a recent release. “We should also tighten the requirements for future funding to ensure it is targeted at small businesses who have been hit the hardest.”
Source: Thanks https://www.citybeat.com/food-drink/the-dish/blog/21130040/ohio-restaurant-association-releases-restaurant-blueprint-for-recovery-action-plan