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Restaurant industry turning to Congress for more help amid the pandemic

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Posted at 4:01 PM, May 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-06 16:01:00-04

Restaurant owners are trying to figure out how they're going to make ends meet as they look to reopen.

The industry is one of the hardest hit by the pandemic and it’s looking to Congress for help.

Losses for the restaurant industry nationwide are expected to hit $80 billion by the end of the month. Around 8 million restaurant workers have been furloughed or laid off.

The National Restaurant Association says more than 40% of restaurants are closed now. It's worried a growing number of them won't be able to reopen in the weeks ahead without assistance from the federal government.

The Paycheck Protection Program has helped small businesses, but the association says the loan terms don't work well for restaurants.

“Right now, they have to be used in an 8-week period,” said Sean Kennedy, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs for the National Restaurant Association. “For restaurants who have an uncertain future now and a really uncertain future as we begin to reopen, that's just not enough time. We need more flexibility so we can use the time, ramp our operations back up and continue bringing people back through our doors.”

Giving businesses more time to use the money is one change the restaurant industry is pushing the U.S. Treasury Department to make.

It’s also asking to revise the loan forgiveness restrictions. Currently, at least 75% of the loan has to be spent on payroll, but the industry says with scaled-back operations, that isn't a reality.

It's also calling for a restaurant recovery fund to be included in the next coronavirus stimulus package. Restaurants would use the $240 billion fund to cover revenue losses and keep employees on the payroll.

“You would have to demonstrate that you've lost revenue,” said Kennedy. “You'd have to demonstrate that you need it and there would also be a lot of oversight just to make sure that it is going to the right restaurants.”

They're calling for oversight of the fund to come from the Treasury Department and the IRS.

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Data from The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.