The House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to give final approval to the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, a wide-ranging $1.9 trillion bill aimed at boosting the American economy during the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to issuing $1,400 direct payments to individuals and boosting tax credits to reduce child poverty, the law also creates a $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
Restaurants given grants from the fund can spend the money on payroll, a mortgage or rent, utilities, maintenance, supplies and more. Businesses can receive up to $10 million in total, but no more than $5 million for each physical restaurant location.
Restaurants, catering companies, bars, taprooms and food stands, trucks and carts and other businesses may all qualify for grants. The U.S. Small Business Administration, which is tasked with overseeing the fund, is directed to prioritize awarding grants to small businesses owned by women, veterans and other "economically disadvantaged individuals."
The National Restaurant Association applauded passage of the bill. "Today, Congress spoke with one voice in support of the restaurant industry," Sean Kennedy, the Association's executive vice president of public affairs, said in a statement. "The Restaurant Revitalization Fund will keep doors open in restaurants large and small in every community."
In a statement issued over the weekend, Erika Polmar, the executive director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, called the bill's passage in the Senate "a decisive moment" for independent food businesses. "Independent restaurants and bars came together at the beginning of the pandemic with the hope that by working together for the first time, our industry could make a big impact—and that’s what we did," said Polmar.
"This relief fund gives hope to the entire independent restaurant and bar community—line cooks, managers, bartenders and operators from coffee shops, food trucks, bakeries and bistros can rest a bit more soundly tonight knowing help is on the way," said chef and Independent Restaurant Coalition cofounder Tom Colicchio in a statement.
President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill Friday. The House passed the bill almost exactly along party lines, with all Democrats except one voting in favor of it, and all Republicans opposed. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, who represents Manatee County and north Sarasota County, and Rep. Greg Steube, R-Venice, who represents south Sarasota County, both voted against the relief plan.