Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney rallied with business leaders, restaurant owners and suppliers from across Queens on Friday, Feb. 18, at the Court Square Diner in Long Island City.
During the rally, Maloney called on Congress to pass three of her bills that would help restaurants across the country that have been devastated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“New York City is the restaurant capital of the nation, but unfortunately, restaurants bore the economic brunt of the COVID-19 crisis, especially during the spike of the omicron variant,” Maloney said. “With restaurant owners and employees alike struggling as a result of this pandemic, I am proud to continue to advocate for relief in Washington. I thank the good work and advocacy of the Queens Chamber of Commerce for helping restaurants and small businesses keep their doors open, and I am proud to be their voice in the halls of Congress.”
Her legislation would replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) and send billions of dollars in new relief directly to the restaurant industry, create new protections in the form of business interruption insurance, and rework the Paycheck Protection Program loan program to extend the time frame.
“Throughout the pandemic, restaurant owners did everything asked of them to keep their communities and their employees safe, but so many of them are hanging on by a thread. Small businesses that barely survived government-enforced lockdowns were hit once again by the omicron variant, which forced employees to miss work and kept customers away,” said Tom Grech, president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. “Queens’ restaurant industry drives tourism to our borough, adds character to our neighborhoods, and creates jobs and opportunity for people from all walks of life. We need Congress to follow Congresswoman Maloney’s lead, and pass these vital pieces of legislation to save small businesses.”
In early 2020, Congress passed the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), a $28.6 billion fund, as part of the American Rescue Plan Act. The fund provides direct aid to the dining and hospitality industry to help with economic losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the New York Hospitality Alliance, roughly 65% of New York City restaurants that applied to the national fund were shut out when money was exhausted by mid-May. Rep. Maloney’s bill in the House of Representatives will place $60 billion into a fund that would award both new applications and honor the pending ones that weren’t paid out last year.
“This pandemic has been a series of gut punches to our restaurants and food industry and our caterers and everyone in hospitality. We have thousands of businesses in this area that relate to that,” Long Island City Partnership President Elizabeth Lusskin said. “This relief is still very, very much needed. It’s both righting past issues and it’s preparing for the future. And we could not be more proud to have Congresswoman Maloney leading the charge on this.”
According to the NYS Restaurant Association, 86% of operators say their restaurants are less profitable now than before the pandemic.
“People come from across the region, and the entire world, to visit Flushing and sample our wonderful restaurants. The industry is incredibly important to the economy of our neighborhood,” Flushing Chinese Business Association Executive Director Peter Tu said. “So many new Americans have made a life for themselves in this country by working in a restaurant. We are proud to stand with Rep. Carolyn Maloney and the Queens Chamber of Commerce to support these three important bills that will help ensure our restaurants can survive the pandemic, and urge Congress to provide relief for this vital industry.”