What 2021 Federal Restaurant Aid Could Look Like

There's a lot for restaurants to unpack in Biden's American Rescue Plan (ARP).

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What will the change from 45 to 46 mean for Colorado bars and restaurants? / Frank Harms ©123RF.com

Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.

Bette Davis (in addition to providing one of the most iconic and versatile lines in film history) has just described the first days of Joe Biden’s administration. The President-elect recently announced his broad legislative agenda for the next month, which restaurant owners will no doubt see as both good ($15 trillion in grants for small businesses, FEED Act) and bad ($15 per hour national minimum wage). Regardless of the details, we fully expect the Congressional battle surrounding it to be ugly, ugly, ugly.

Individuals will also want to pay attention to the proposed $1,400 direct payment, expanded unemployment benefits through September, eviction and foreclosure moratoriums, and national vaccination program.

Plus, the Colorado Restaurant Association is asking for responses to its legislative survey that will help it best tailor its efforts with this year’s state legislative session.

The following information comes from the CRA’s December 17 newsletter. Sign up to receive the full version here. And take a gander at its Coronavirus Resource Center and on our Covid-19 Reopening Resources for general info.

What President-Elect Biden’s American Rescue Plan Could Mean for Restaurants

Last week, President-elect Biden announced his framework for an American Rescue Plan (ARP), a $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill. Our partners at the National Restaurant Association have analyzed the key insights, but we are awaiting details on many aspects of the plan. Most pertinently to the restaurant industry, it would raise the national minimum wage to $15 per hour, eliminate the tipped wage, and provide $15 trillion dollars in grants to small businesses. Biden has suggested that he would like to see it enacted by the end of the month.

Following are some of the ARP’s key elements:

Federal Minimum Wage 

  • Raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour (no details on a timeline and/or phased-in approach).
  • Eliminate the tipped minimum wage. 
  • Eliminate the sub-minimum wage for people with disabilities.
  • No further details are provided for consideration of this proposal. The National Restaurant Association has been informed by Democratic senior leadership staff that the minimum wage increase will likely not be tied to a post-inauguration COVID-19 bill, as they do not want to bog it down; and that the minimum wage debate will likely occur in the House in February, and the Senate in March.

OSHA COVID-19 Protection Standard 

  • Calls on Congress to “authorize OSHA to issue a COVID-19 Protection Standard that covers a broad set of workers” to protect them from the virus. 
  • As authorized, OSHA would promulgate an emergency temporary standard pursuant to its statute but there are no details provided as to how far reaching the standard would be. 
  • Increases funding for OSHA enforcement and grant funding.
  • Given the lack of legal liability protections in place for employers for exposure-based claims, the overlay of this safety standard on employers is concerning and potentially opens the flood-gates to potential litigation.   

Emergency Paid Leave 

  • Extends the emergency paid leave requirements contained in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to September 31, 2021, and eliminates the 500 employee threshold, mandating all private and public sector employers to offer paid leave. 
  • It would also eliminate the safe harbor provision for covered employers with less than 50 employees.  
  • It only extends the refundable tax credit for employers with less than 500 employees.  
  • Additionally, it would provide over 14 weeks of paid sick and family and medical leave for parents to take care of their child and family members under certain conditions. 

$15 billion in grants to small businesses

  • We do not have details yet on these grants, but will provide you with updates and more information surfaces.

Community Credit Corporation Assistance – Restaurants

  • Calls for providing a bridge to recovery – including through the Community Credit Corporation at the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture – for restaurants, bars, and other businesses that have suffered disproportionately.
  • We do not have details yet on what he will specifically propose.

$35 billion in government funds to leverage $175 billion in additional small business lending and investment

  • We will provide more details regarding the guidelines for and how to apply for these loans as information is released.

FEMA Empowering Essential Deliveries (FEED) Act 

  • This Act would leverage the resources and expertise of the restaurant industry in helping to get food to families in need and laid-off restaurant workers back on the job.
  • The FEED Act would authorize the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to approve state, local, and Indian tribal government plans to partner with small and mid-size restaurants and nonprofit organizations to provide nutritious meals to individuals in need. 
  • The National Restaurant Association called for passage of this legislation in their Blueprint for Restaurant Revival in July 2020. 

Direct Checks to Individuals 

  • Increases direct financial assistance to $2,000 by an additional $1,400 per person in direct checks (that is in addition to the $600 per person that Congress authorized in December.) 

Unemployment Insurance (UI)

  • Extends expanded unemployment benefits through the end of September, with an extra $400 weekly supplement.

Eviction and Foreclosure Moratoriums 

  • Extends eviction and foreclosure moratoriums and continues applications for forbearance on federally-guaranteed mortgages until September 30, 2021.  

National Vaccination Program 

  • Creates a national vaccination program in partnership with states, localities, tribes and territories; and will include the launching of community vaccination centers around the country and deploying mobile vaccination units to hard-to-reach areas.  

You can read the full plan here.

This plan is the Biden administration’s opening proposal for a COVID relief package, and certain aspects will most likely see amendments from both parties. In partnership with the National Restaurant Association, we will remain vigilant in working to ensure that the legislation is as favorable for restaurants as possible. That includes working to remove pieces that would be harmful to our industry and supporting the inclusion of pro-restaurant provisions.  

IMPORTANT! Help Our Advocacy Efforts During the Legislative Session: Respond to Our Legislative Survey

Before the General Assembly members reconvene for the 2021 State Legislative Session on February 16, the Colorado Restaurant Association is collecting information on the economic impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak on the restaurant industry, as well as details on how anticipated legislative proposals will impact you.

While this survey is longer than our monthly impact survey, we hope that you will take the time to complete it – your answers arm us with valuable data that allows us to advocate most effectively on your behalf.

Data collected in this survey will specifically make a case to State legislators to pass restaurant-friendly proposals. We also plan to use the data collected from this information in other state and local advocacy efforts, in recovery conversations across the State, and with the media. Please be assured that all information provided is anonymous and strictly confidential.

Respond to the survey here.

Talk to DiningOut! Email your experiences (and thoughts, opinions, and questions—anything, really) to askus@diningout.com

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