Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was in Colonie Monday to announce he is prioritizing restaurants in a new COVID-19 relief bill.
The New York Democrat was at TORO Cantina, a Mexican restaurant forced by the pandemic to close its doors six hours into last March’s grand opening, the same day the state's shutdown went into effect.
Schumer says the bi-partisan Restaurants Act, included in the next COVID-relief bill, would pump $25 billion dollars into eateries across the country.
" Restaurant employment in the Capital Region has been down 50 percent in the pandemic. Pre-pandemic, the Glens Falls metro area had the nation's 15th highest density of restaurants. So that shows you how important it is. And some restaurants have about 80 percent of their revenues down. How do they survive? How do they pay the rent? How do they pay the insurance? How do they pay the mortgage? And restaurants want to keep their employees. A restaurant is an organic place. The chef, the under chef, the waiters, the people who help clean... it's a whole thing, and you want to keep your employees. And you have a bond with your employees. You don't want to fire them. But if you don't have the money, what are you going to do? This bill will help solve those problems."
Chef Jaime Ortiz owns TORO Cantina:
"We're amongst a good amount of restaurants that opened outside of the timeline that would qualify them for PPP loans. So this restaurant in particular does not have a history of employment that went back in 2019. So therefore, did not qualify for PPP loans. And I know of several other restaurants that are in the same situation. So this would be a great welcome relief for restaurants in that situation."
Schumer notes 54 percent of New York restaurants say they will not survive the next 6 months without more federal relief. He adds New York has lost nearly 4,000 restaurants since the pandemic began.
"Maximum grants would be for $5 million per individual restaurant, the money would go till December 31 of this year. And by then we hope COVID will be pretty much passed us by then. Most New Yorkers should have had the vaccines. And the restaurants can be fine on their own. If not, we'll renew it. And if we run out of money sooner, we'll renew it. And this won't be that hard to renew. Because it's bipartisan. It's one of the few things in this bill, that is bipartisan, I wish there were more. It's $10 million per restaurant group. In other words, we don't want Olive Garden or Red Lobster, to suck up all the money, you know, that have 1000s of restaurants, they can afford it. So the groups are limited in what they can get. You can only have 20 restaurants in your group 20 locations, and only $10 million per group. $5 million if it's an individual restaurant, OK.
Schumer says $5 billion is set aside for small mom and pop restaurants. Grants can be used for payroll, benefits, mortgage, rent, utilities and other various business expenses.