The week of March 16 took an unprecedented toll on restaurants. For the first time in modern history, many state governments ordered restaurants to close their dining rooms in an effort to promote social distancing due to the coronavirus.
While some restaurant groups have gotten very creative in continuing to service their customers, others have decided to temporarily stop operations altogether. Last week, both restaurant owners and displaced employees started looking at ways to get short-term financial relief from the toll this shutdown is taking on their businesses and personal lives.
Both states and the federal government are working on solutions to help restaurants stay in business despite the sudden shutter, but these relief packages have been slower to get off the ground than those from grassroots organizations.
To assist business owners and their employees, here’s an overview of aid sources that exist at this time.
The list below was last updated on March 24. Advice on how to apply for loans and use these resources can be found here in the coming weeks. Got a specific question? Submit it here.
Restaurant relief funds from nonprofits and grassroots organizations
Check lists of relief funds for restaurant, bar and food service workers from nonprofits and other grassroots organizations. Examples include:
the Houston-based Southern Smoke Foundation, which provides cash to workers in health crises
the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation fund, which will give cash to individual workers as well as provide zero-interest loans to restaurants themselves
- the Melman family, owners of the Lettuce Entertain You restaurant group, which launched an Emergency Relief Fund for employees of its 130-plus restaurants nationwide
In the works: the National Restaurant Association’s relief proposal
The National Restaurant Association (NRA) estimates that U.S. restaurants will lose approximately $225 billion in sales over the next three months, spurring the loss of 5-7 million jobs.
On March 18, the organization launched a proposal requesting the allocation of federal funds to the restaurant industry.
The proposal’s key points include:
Direct and targeted financial relief, including the creation of a $145 billion recovery fund for the industry
More loan and insurance options for small businesses and their employees, including disaster unemployment assistance and federally-backed business interruption insurance
Tax measures, including tax credits for businesses that are retaining employees and assistance in allowing businesses to delay, defer or forgo tax obligations
The NRA launched a hashtag, #RestaurantRecovery, for folks to use in encouraging the allocation of federal funds to the industry, as well as a messaging service that allows individuals to drop a note of support to their local congressional representatives.
Business relief funds from cities and states
In addition to the federal government initiative above, there are many state and local initiatives ready to help businesses, including restaurants. Take for example:
Denver’s emergency relief grants of $7,500 to small businesses
the state of Minnesota’s interest-free emergency loans of up to $35,000
Business relief from the federal government
On March 25, officials reached an agreement on a federal stimulus package that includes some $350 billion in loans to small businesses that don’t plan to lay off workers, which would be available until June 30. Aid for larger companies is also worked into that plan, which should pass through Congress this week.
On March 18, the Senate passed a bill that extends paid sick and family leave for employees, which includes restaurant workers.
The new policy includes:
Two weeks of full-pay sick and family leave to workers who are in quarantine or helping family members with the disease or whose children’s schools have closed because of the virus
A total of 12 weeks of paid leave to many of those with children in schools that have closed. Workers will get about 67% of their normal salary for this period.
Bolstering of unemployment insurance
A boost to the SNAP food assistance program and federal funding for Medicaid