In what is likely the last and best chance to secure additional relief from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) this year, a vote on the Small Business COVID Relief Act of 2022 (S. 4008) failed to get the necessary 60 votes in the U.S. Senate today (52-43) to move forward on further consideration. While a majority of senators voted to end debate, a sign of majority support for passage, there were not enough votes to overcome the filibuster, effectively killing the bill.
The Senate bill would have allocated $40 billion to replenish the RRF. A similar bill approved by the House in April, H.R. 3807, would have allocated $42 billion for RRF but was not considered in the Senate.
Anthony Anton, Washington Hospitality Association president & CEO, shared his disappointment with the vote in Washington, D.C., today.
“I’m devastated at today’s news that almost 4,000 restaurants in Washington state, which desperately need help through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund will not get it,” said Anton. “If not for the filibuster, I’m confident enough senators would have supported this critical lifeline for restaurants. We want to thank Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell for their immense efforts to try to get the bill passed. We will continue fighting for the relief restaurants need to keep their doors open.”
Nearly 4,000 restaurant operators in Washington originally qualified for RRF but didn’t receive any relief. While the RRF has been a lifeline for many small business owners, the program was criticized for its inequitable distribution of funds.
The Small Business COVID Relief Act of 2022 would have been a game-changer in meeting the $1.1 billion need among restaurateurs in Washington state.
Steve Hooper, president of Ethan Stowell Restaurants and co-chair of the association’s Government Affairs Committee, also expressed disappointment with today’s outcome.
“As a restaurant operator and president of Seattle Restaurant Alliance, I know how disappointing today’s news will be for thousands of Washington restaurateurs,” said Hooper. “It’s incredibly frustrating a majority of senators voted to end debate, signaling support for final passage, but the filibuster prevents a final vote. The Restaurant Revitalization Fund was a necessary lifeline for those who received it — and replenishing the fund has been something we have worked tirelessly for. We are thankful to Sens. Murray and Cantwell for their efforts, and we will keep advocating for the relief we need to keep our doors open.”
The National Restaurant Association estimates 35,000 restaurant jobs in Washington are at risk without additional replenishment of the RRF.
While today’s vote in the U.S. Senate is disappointing, it’s not the end of the road. After an incredible effort put in by the association’s government affairs team, the government affairs committee, and the hundreds of members who reached out to their lawmakers, the Legislature approved $100 million in hospitality business grants that will be administered by the Washington State Department of Commerce. We anticipate these funds becoming available this summer and will share more about timeline, eligibility and the application process once those details are finalized. Our team will also continue to work with our federal delegation on additional relief efforts.
Be sure to check out our Financial Relief Toolkit for all the latest relief opportunities and programs available to hospitality operators.