Restaurateurs ask Congress for additional COVID-19 money as Omicron surge batters industry

Close to 90% of restaurants say they have seen indoor dining numbers go down during Omicron

Updated: January 24, 2022 - 12:53pm

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The National Restaurant Association on Monday nudged Congress to provide additional federal dollars to restaurants that continue to struggle in a business downturn driven by COVID-19's Omicron surge.

In a letter, sent to congressional leaders, the group requested that lawmakers replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which has been depleted of the $28.6 billion that it contained following the passage of the American Rescue Plan.

"After two years of closures, COVID-19 variants, worker shortages, and inflationary pressure, a dangerous number of restaurants are at the end of the line," Sean Kennedy, the association's top lobbyist, told Congress in a letter. "The RRF was a critical lifeline to many, but far more remain on the sidelines, desperately looking for support amid continued economic uncertainty."

He also argued 88% of restaurateurs have reported a reduced demand for indoor dining since the Omicron surge that started about a month ago.

"The decisions you make in the coming weeks will be critical to the future of the nation’s restaurant industry," Kennedy also wrote.

Washington lawmakers are now considering another COVID-19 relief bill that will take a more targeted approach at businesses that have been the most disproportionately impacted by the pandemic's ongoing effects.

Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin, chairman of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, reportedly said recently that lawmakers are fairly close to securing support for another bill.

The group says that the initial round of government grants saved about 900,000 restaurants jobs and that replenishing the fund would save another 1.6 million.