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Welch Unveils Bipartisan Legislation to Help Local Restaurants Survive the Pandemic

June 22, 2020
Press Release

BURLINGTON – Rep. Peter Welch held a press conference Monday afternoon on Church Street with local restaurant owners to unveil bipartisan legislation that he recently introduced in Congress to create a $120 billion grant program specifically to help local restaurants survive during and after the coronavirus pandemic. Welch has held numerous e-meetings with restaurant owners throughout Vermont since the start of the pandemic and he has heard a consistent message, “we need help.” This legislation was introduced in direct response to those pleas for help.

During this unprecedented time, many restaurants have been forced to completely close, offer take-out only options, or open at significantly reduced capacity. While all of these steps were necessary for the public health of Vermonters, they have devasted the local food industry and cost the jobs of thousands of Vermonters who worked in the industry. Facing months of lost revenue from a decrease in customer traffic, restaurants are also coping with the rising cost of supplies and new expenses for personal protective equipment.

“Vermont’s restaurants are often the lifeblood of our communities, where we catch up and socialize with our loved ones and neighbors,” said Rep. Peter Welch. “We need a strong food industry in Vermont, which supports local jobs and suppliers, farms, and our downtowns. The SBA loan programs do not fit all of the needs of the many restaurants hit hard by this pandemic, who have closed for months and are just now opening at greatly reduced capacity. This bill is a critical step to ensure our treasured local establishments are able to survive this pandemic to serve our friends and neighbors for many years.”

“The Vermont Restaurant Coalition is grateful to Representative Peter Welch for co-sponsoring the RESTAURANTS Act,” said Sue Bette, co-owner of Bluebird BBQ and co-founder of the Vermont Independent Restaurant Coalition. “This bill will not only save hundreds of restaurants in Vermont but will also serve to provide secure employment for our teams, preserve our local supply chain, and maintain vibrant downtowns. We would also like to acknowledge the diligent work of the Independent Restaurant Coalition which helped bring this legislation to fruition. Thank you Congressman Welch for your leadership and for recognizing the important role that restaurants will play in Vermont's economic and social recovery. With this step, you have helped save our restaurant industry so that it will once again thrive.”

Welch partnered with Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and eight other colleagues to introduce the RESTAURANTS Act (H.R. 7197) last week.  The $120 billion grant program would:

  • Be available to food service or drinking establishments, including caterers, that are not publicly traded or part of a chain with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name.
  • Provide assistance to cover the difference between revenues from 2019 and projected revenues through 2020.
  • Include an initial 14 day period when funds will only be made available to restaurants with $1.5 million or less in profit to guarantee that small local restaurants receive funds.
  • Provide coverage for payroll (not including employee compensation exceeding $100,000 per year), benefits, mortgage and rent payments, utilities, maintenance, supplies (including personal protective equipment and cleaning materials), food, debt obligations to suppliers, and any other expenses deemed essential by the Secretary of the Treasury.

Welch was joined at the press conference by Sue Bette; Matt Birong, chef and owner of the 3 Squares Café in Vergennes and Vermont State Representative; and Cara Chigazola Tobin, chef and co-owner of Honey Road. Text of the legislation can be found here. A full summary of the legislation can be found here.