Queens lawmaker helps pass additional COVID relief funding for restaurants and small businesses

Photo courtesy of Rep. Grace Meng’s office

Congresswoman Grace Meng helped pass legislation in the House of Representatives on Thursday, April 7, that would provide additional COVID-19 relief funding to small businesses and restaurants that continue to struggle from economic losses. 

The Relief for Restaurants and Other Hard Hit Small Businesses Act would allocate $55 billion, $42 billion of which is slated to replenish aid for restaurants in Queens and the rest of New York as well as throughout the country. The other $13 billion would establish a new initiative called the Hard Hit Industries Award Program to support other small businesses impacted by the pandemic. 

“Small businesses, and restaurants in particular throughout Queens and the rest of New York, are the lifeblood of our region,” Meng said. “Restaurants are vital to our economy, critical to creating jobs and important to bringing investments to our communities. But unfortunately, the restaurant industry continues to suffer from the effects of the pandemic, and many establishments that were not able to take advantage of this relief still need a lifeline to help recover.” 

In March 2021, Meng helped create the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which provided $28.6 billion in grants for restaurants that lost revenue due to the coronavirus crisis. This funding was included in the American Rescue Plan which President Biden signed into law that month. 

Thursday’s vote to replenish the funding occurred after Meng called for Congress to approve more money to help the restaurant industry, an industry that is still working to get back on its feet. After encouraging local restaurants in April 2021 to apply for relief, over 500 restaurants in Meng’s congressional district received more than $135 million in financial assistance.

But the program, due to its popularity, quickly exhausted its funding, and as a result, thousands of eligible establishments across the nation were not able to access relief. However, these new funds will allow the Small Business Administration to process the remaining requests, and award the much-needed grants.

Meng is now calling on the Senate to now follow suit and pass the bill in order to quickly move forward with getting relief into the hands of area restaurants and small businesses.  

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