With nearly half of the borough’s restaurants in danger of closing for good, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congresswoman Grace Meng and the Queens Chamber of Commerce met with restaurant owners to mobilize support for her RESTAURANTS Act of 2020.
The bipartisan legislation, co-sponsored by Congressman Peter King of Long Island, would create a $120 billion stabilization fund for restaurants, saving tens of thousands of restaurants and as many as 6 million jobs across the nation.
“Saving independent food and drinking establishments will literally save millions of people’s livelihoods,” Meng said. “That is why I composed the RESTAURANTS Act which was recently passed by the House as part of the updated HEROES Act. In Queens and across New York City, restaurants and drinking establishments play a vital role in providing jobs and contributing to our region’s economy. Failing to help these types of businesses will greatly harm our borough and country’s recovery and the lives of so many who are part of the service industry.”
More than 23,000 restaurants across the five boroughs provided more than 317,000 jobs and delivered nearly $27 billion in taxable sales in 2019 but the pandemic has devastated these businesses.
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli reported that employment in city restaurants fell to 91,000 in April and sales fell 71 percent during the three-month period of March, April and May compared to last year and in June, four out of every five restaurants and bars were unable to pay their full rent, according to a study from the NYC Hospitality Alliance.
“The industry, along with thousands of jobs, is headed for a cliff as a result of the pandemic,” DiNapoli said. “If it fails, it would take a lot of revenue needed for our state and city budgets with it. We need the bipartisan RESTAURANTS Act to help ensure that businesses on the edger have support and breathing room to survive.”
Studies estimate that nationwide, restaurants have laid off 91 percent of the hourly workers and 70 percent of salaried workers. In Queens, the majority of restaurant industry workers reside in Jackson Heights and Corona, communities that saw a high infection and mortality rate from COVID-19 during the spring and summer months.
“Restaurant and bar owners create economic opportunity in every community in every city and state across the country,” Queens Chamber of Congress President Thomas J. Grech said. “They add to the character of our neighborhoods, and help immigrants strive for the American dream. Right now they need our help. The RESTAURANTS Act will help them weather the next several months and work to stabilize the industry after a devastating pandemic. If the restaurant industry fails, it won’t just have a ripple effect, it will be a tidal wave that impacts jobs and businesses across the entire economy. This bill is an essential investment that will pay dividends far into our future.”
Under the legislation, Restaurant Stabilization Grants will cover the difference between 2019 projected revenues and projected revenues for 2020 and can be spent on payroll, benefits, mortgage, maintenance, rent, supplies, utilities, food, debt, obligations to suppliers., and any other expenses deemed essential by the Treasury secretary.