Congress Fails Us Once More
by David Klemt
A “compromise” and “far from perfect,” the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is yet another bill that could include the RRF but fails to do so.
Not content to deliver just the gut punches our industry has already endured, Congress is leaving us out. Again.
A bill that targets inflation in the US should, logically, include replenishment of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. However, RRF replenishing isn’t among Inflation Reduction Act compromises.
By the way, that isn’t my assessment. It’s President Joe Biden’s summary of the bill’s passage in the Senate: “This bill is far from perfect. It’s a compromise.”
To clarify, this compromise is a $430 billion spending bill that doesn’t include $40 billion to replenish the RRF. That’s interesting, considering Democrats claim the bill will not only generate enough revenue to pay for itself, they say it will generate another $300 billion throughout the next decade.
Restaurants in the US are projected to generate nearly $900 billion in sales this year. Apparently, however, that’s not enough for our politicians and lawmakers to consider us important to the economy.
Instead, those who enjoy near-inscrutable power and are in the position to stop another bout of restaurant and bar closures have chosen not to help. Our industry, which employs millions upon millions of hard-working Americans is once again on the outside looking in.
The Road to Nowhere
In a word, the road to RRF replenishment is exhausting. One Instagram user commented as such on the Independent Restaurant Coalition‘s post about us being left out of a massive spending bill yet again.
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Three months ago, the US Senate killed RRF replenishment when they voted against even debating the Small Business COVID Relief Act of 2022.
Midway through June I reported that Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public affairs for the National Restaurant Association, posited that the RRF could be replenished via a reconciliation bill.
Addressing the possibility, Kennedy made clear it was a longshot. He was correct.
Indeed, the Inflation Reduction Act was passed by the US Senate via reconciliation bill. A simple majority consisting of all 50 Democrat senators and Vice President Kamala Harris sends the bill to the House.
Compellingly, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the Inflation Reduction Act indicates the bill’s name is a misnomer. According to the CBO, the bill will either have zero or nearly-zero impact on inflation this year or in 2023. A group of 230 economists warn the bill may increase inflation.
The bill is expected to pass the House in its current form and be signed by President Biden by the end of this week.
Response from the IRC
Immediately after news broke that the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 passed the Senate but failed to include RRF replenishment, the IRC’s Erika Palomar responded.
The executive director of the IRC said:
“For nearly three years, independently owned restaurants and bars have weathered multiple COVID-19 surges, government-mandated closures, consumer hesitancy, rising prices and ongoing restrictions, while fighting to keep their doors open and staff employed. Restaurants and bars are the heartbeat of every community, and we are incredibly disappointed to not be included in the reconciliation vote this weekend. 177,300 small businesses have been patiently waiting for relief and their needs are being ignored, again.
“Thousands of restaurants and bars are at risk of closing permanently as a result of continued Congressional inaction on the replenishment of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF). The failure of Congress and the White House to act swiftly is impacting neighborhoods in every state across the country. Congress has failed these businesses, but the Independent Restaurant Coalition is not giving up the fight in any way possible to support independent restaurants.”
Over the past 15 months (longer if we really look back), our politicians and lawmakers have been consistent about one thing. They have continually failed to recognize restaurants and bars for what they are: cornerstones of their communities.
Of course, they’ll happily use our businesses for political theater and their fundraisers. But giving us more than lipservice? Not on the agenda.