Food stall

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

After RRF Failure, What’s Next for Us?

After RRF Failure, What’s Next for Us?

by David Klemt

Super Mario Bros. game booth

After the US Senate failed to even debate the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, instead opting to let it die, what’s next?

Obviously, trusting our elected officials to do the right thing isn’t a viable option. After all, the Senate slow-walked the RRF’s death march. It took six weeks after the House voted “yes” on RRF for senators to filibuster the bill to death.

Last Thursday, the National Restaurant Association addressed moving forward. Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public affairs, released a 90-second video in which he spoke about the RRF and where we are now.

Reconciliation?

One of the first options Kennedy proposes in his video is a reconciliation bill. That, however, is highly unlikely to come to fruition.

So, what’s a reconciliation bill? Simply put, it has to do with the Senate’s supermajority requirement.

In order for a bill to advance to a vote, 60 percent of the Senate must support ending a filibuster. On that topic, a filibuster is a procedural tool that prolongs a debate. The filibuster is used to delay or prevent a vote on a bill, resolution, etc.

Now, a budget reconciliation bill circumvents the supermajority requirement. A simple majority—51 senators for the US Senate—is all it takes to override a filibuster in this instance.

Technically, from what I’ve come to understand, the Senate can pass a maximum of three budget reconciliation bills in a year. Most often, it passes a single such bill per year.

Obviously, Kennedy feels that this would be a longshot to cross our fingers and hope the RRF is funded via these means.

Staying Ready

As they say—yes, “they”—if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready. According to Kennedy, the NRA is prepared to act in any way they can should replenishing the RRF or similar aide once again become an option.

“We’re gonna continue to closely monitor the situation and we certainly can activate if there any signs of movement,” he says. “We’re not seeing them yet.”

The “yet” there is perhaps a bit hopeful. And as we like to say, hope isn’t a strategy. However, optimism is far healthier than pessimism and hopelessness.

Additionally, Kennedy and the NRA are grateful to the bipartisan group of representatives and senators who have shown their support for our industry and replenishing the RRF.

“We’re incredibly appreciative of the works of our champions in Congress,” says Kennedy.

In particular, he acknowledges Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and senators Ben Carden (D-MD), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). In the House, Kennedy thanks Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).

What’s Next?

As Kennedy says, much of what he discussed with people at the 2022 NRA Show centered around this very topic. Just what are we supposed to do moving forward?

Unfortunately, there’s no clear answer, no simple solution we can point to and implement.

Instead, we have several issues we must navigate to keep restaurant and bar doors open:

  • What can we do to more effectively recruit and retain staff?
  • How can we best address increases in food costs and problems with availability?
  • Is there a way to address rising credit card transaction fees?

Of course, that’s but a handful of what we must address and solve. And at least when it comes to the first question, we know some of the elements for the solution:

  • Treat staff with respect.
  • Value diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Improve pay and offer benefits.
  • Develop a healthy company culture and workplace.

On the topic of state and local policymakers, expecting help is a dicey proposition.

Unless they engage with the owners, operators, and industry professionals in their states, counties, cites, and towns, they’ll hurt these businesses. The only effective and helpful way forward is for them to engage with us and not simply introduce and pass legislation that hurts. Possible, of course, but a big ask as we’ve seen proven time and time again.

Image: Minator Yang on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Breakdown: How Senators Voted on RRF

Breakdown: How Senators Voted on RRF

by David Klemt

U.S. Capitol Building exterior, cloudy blue skies

After a year of waiting, we now know the fate of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund: a 52 to 43 vote that saw RRF replenishment fail on the Senate floor.

Last Thursday, the US Senate voted to debate the Small Business COVID Relief Act of 2022 (S.4008). A filibuster put an end to this effort to replenish the RRF.

To be blunt, this is a disgrace. Eligible RRF applicants have been awaiting needed and deserved grants for a year. We were left out of Build Back Better, we were left out of the $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill passed in March.

A contributing factor to why this is so disappointing is the passing of S.3811. Of particular note, 32 of the senators who voted against $40 billion for American restaurants and bars voted in favor of $40 billion for supplemental aid for Ukraine.

Now, I’m not saying that Ukraine doesn’t deserve our support. Likewise, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have voted to provide the war-torn country $40 billion in aid.

However, I am saying that I find it indefensible that dozens of our senators would send that kind of money overseas, then turn around and deny relief for American businesses.

In one moment we have senators saying America needs to come first. They then proceed to turn their backs on hard-working Americans.

Nay Votes

Unfortunately, 43 senators—all Republican—voted against the Small Business COVID Relief Act of 2022. Therefore, they voted against replenish the RRF.

However, that doesn’t mean all Republican senators voted against the bill. Indeed, four Republicans voted with their Democrat and Independent peers.

  • Barrasso (R-WY)
  • Blackburn (R-TN)
  • Boozman (R-AR)
  • Braun (R-IN)
  • Burr (R-NC)
  • Capito (R-WV)
  • Cornyn (R-TX)
  • Cotton (R-AR)
  • Cramer (R-ND)
  • Crapo (R-ID)
  • Cruz (R-TX)
  • Daines (R-MT)
  • Fischer (R-NE)
  • Graham (R-SC)
  • Grassley (R-IA)
  • Hagerty (R-TN)
  • Hawley (R-MO)
  • Hoeven (R-ND)
  • Hyde-Smith (R-MS)
  • Inhofe (R-OK)
  • Johnson (R-WI)
  • Kennedy (R-LA)
  • Lankford (R-OK)
  • Lee (R-UT)
  • Lummis (R-WY)
  • McConnell (R-KY)
  • Moran (R-KS)
  • Paul (R-KY)
  • Portman (R-OH)
  • Risch (R-ID)
  • Romney (R-UT)
  • Rounds (R-SD)
  • Rubio (R-FL)
  • Sasse (R-NE)
  • Scott (R-FL)
  • Scott (R-SC)
  • Shelby (R-AL)
  • Sullivan (R-AK)
  • Thune (R-SD)
  • Tillis (R-NC)
  • Toomey (R-PA)
  • Tuberville (R-AL)
  • Young (R-IN)

Yea Votes

It’s important to remember that the Small Business COVID Relief Act of 2022 was a bipartisan effort. Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) introduced the bill, which included $40 billion for the RRF and $8 billion for other businesses.

Four Republican senators and two Independents voted in the affirmative with all Democrats.

  • Baldwin (D-WI)
  • Bennet (D-CO)
  • Blumenthal (D-CT)
  • Blunt (R-MO)
  • Booker (D-NJ)
  • Cantwell (D-WA)
  • Cardin (D-MD)
  • Carper (D-DE)
  • Casey (D-PA)
  • Cassidy (R-LA)
  • Collins (R-ME)
  • Coons (D-DE)
  • Cortez Masto (D-NV)
  • Duckworth (D-IL)
  • Durbin (D-IL)
  • Feinstein (D-CA)
  • Gillibrand (D-NY)
  • Hassan (D-NH)
  • Heinrich (D-NM)
  • Hickenlooper (D-CO)
  • Hirono (D-HI)
  • Kaine (D-VA)
  • Kelly (D-AZ)
  • King (I-ME)
  • Klobuchar (D-MN)
  • Leahy (D-VT)
  • Lujan (D-NM)
  • Manchin (D-WV)
  • Markey (D-MA)
  • Menendez (D-NJ)
  • Merkley (D-OR)
  • Murkowski (R-AK)
  • Murphy (D-CT)
  • Murray (D-WA)
  • Ossoff (D-GA)
  • Padilla (D-CA)
  • Peters (D-MI)
  • Reed (D-RI)
  • Sanders (I-VT)
  • Schatz (D-HI)
  • Schumer (D-NY)
  • Shaheen (D-NH)
  • Sinema (D-AZ)
  • Smith (D-MN)
  • Stabenow (D-MI)
  • Tester (D-MT)
  • Warner (D-VA)
  • Warnock (D-GA)
  • Warren (D-MA)
  • Whitehouse (D-RI)
  • Wicker (R-MS)
  • Wyden (D-OR)

Not Voting

Three Democrat and two Republican senators didn’t vote on S.4008.

  • Brown (D-OH)
  • Ernst (R-IA)
  • Marshall (R-KS)
  • Rosen (D-NV)
  • Van Hollen (D-MD)

Yay Votes for Ukraine, Nay Votes for RRF

The following senators, all Republican, voted to send $40 billion in aid to Ukraine.

The same day, they voted against $40 billion to replenish the RRF, voting against American restaurants and bars.

  • Barrasso (R-WY)
  • Burr (R-NC)
  • Capito (R-WV)
  • Cornyn (R-TX)
  • Cotton (R-AR)
  • Cramer (R-ND)
  • Cruz (R-TX)
  • Daines (R-MT)
  • Fischer (R-NE)
  • Graham (R-SC)
  • Grassley (R-IA)
  • Hoeven (R-ND)
  • Hyde-Smith (R-MS)
  • Inhofe (R-OK)
  • Johnson (R-WI)
  • Kennedy (R-LA)
  • Lankford (R-OK)
  • McConnell (R-KY)
  • Moran (R-KS)
  • Portman (R-OH)
  • Risch (R-ID)
  • Romney (R-UT)
  • Rounds (R-SD)
  • Rubio (R-FL)
  • Sasse (R-NE)
  • Scott (R-FL)
  • Scott (R-SC)
  • Shelby (R-AL)
  • Sullivan (R-AK)
  • Thune (R-SD)
  • Tillis (R-NC)
  • Toomey (R-PA)
  • Young (R-IN)

Image: PartTime Portraits on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

US Senate Fails to Replenish the RRF

US Senate Fails to Replenish the RRF

by David Klemt

United States Capitol Building exterior and blue sky

After conflicting reports and speculation, the US Senate has finally voted this week on replenishing the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

Last week, multiple sources reported that the Senate would hold their RRF vote this week. Just days ago, several outlets sounded the alarm, reporting that the vote would be pushed to next week. The reason, these sources provided, was the Senate’s scramble to repackage and hold another vote on aid for Ukraine.

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) blocked the bill that would provide $40 billion in defense and humanitarian aid. Unsurprisingly, it was also Sen. Paul who objected to $43 billion in emergency funding last August, killing that RRF replenishment effort.

Today, on the Senate floor, Sen. Paul repeatedly derided the replenishment of the RRF as a “bailout.” Additionally, he asked, “Where’s the emergency?”

So, one can infer that the impending closure of an estimated 50 percent of RRF applicants—88,500—isn’t an emergency to the Kentucky senator. Simple math shows that if each of those applicants has just ten employees, that’s a loss of 885,000 jobs.

Rightfully so, people throughout the industry have been more than a little concerned that the bill would receive at least 60 “yea” votes today.

At issue is where the funds would come from. While Democrats view replenishing the RRF as emergency funding, Republicans prefer to reallocate existing funds.

Senate Fails to Replenish RRF

Today’s vote was a long time coming. In fact, it’s just days shy of one year since the RRF application portal closed.

Now, after a 223 to 203 vote in the House to replenish RRF, our senators have failed us. The resulting vote was 52 to 43, falling short of the 60 “yeas” necessary

I’m not despondent over this news. Honestly, I think I’ve made it rather clear that our politicians failing us wouldn’t at all surprise me. Yet I still find myself incredibly disappointed.

Disappointed in how the RRF was handled, disappointed in the grant approval process, disappointed in how emergency funding was blocked, and disappointed in how we were left out of the Biden administration’s Build Back Better and March omnibus bills.

And gravely disillusioned now that I’ve finally learned how little many of our senators care about us. Hospitality is an industry that employed nearly 17 million people in 2019. In terms of revenue, we’re projected by the National Restaurant Association to generate almost $900 billion in sales.

Not enough, it’s clear, for a majority of senators to vote to replenish the RRF.

However, I’m mostly dismayed for the owners and operators who have waited a year just to have this lifeline yanked from their fingertips. Today’s failure in the Senate puts millions of jobs at risk.

Underfunded from the Start

For those who found themselves in RRF limbo, the wait for this vote has been agonizing.

The RRF application portal opened May 3, 2021. Initially, the process looked promising. For the first 21 days, the Small Business Administration announced, priority would be granted to small businesses with a minimum of 51 percent ownership by women, veterans or socially disadvantaged people.

However, the SBA closed the portal immediately after processing only about 101,000 priority applications, or one-third of applicants. So, ever since May 24 of last year, “non-priority” applicants have been left wondering if they’d ever receive an RRF grant.

In addition to the premature closure of the application process, the RRF was woefully underfunded. Clearly, that point was driven home when $75 billion in applications were submitted to a fund with just $28.6 billion.

So, the quick closure and unrealistic funding meant that out of the over 362,000 initial applicants, around 177,000 have been watching and waiting.

A Year-long Wait

Shortly after the RRF portal was closed, a number of Republican members of Congress sent a letter to the SBA. Per the contents of the letter, non-priority applicants wouldn’t receive grants or have the opportunity to apply for grants.

Indeed, those applicants stuck in RRF limbo have been waiting for relief for just days shy of a year. And that’s only counting the days since the portal closed. Operators across the industry, not just those who applied for RRF grants, have been scratching and clawing to stave off insolvency and closures.

Advocates such as the Independent Restaurant Coalition have been sounding the alarm. RRF applicants could be just days away from bankruptcy and needed the government to act. To be brutally honest, relief may still come too late for many applicants.

Congress has certainly had the time to vote on and replenish the RRF. In June 2021, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-PA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced the RRF Replenishment Act bill. In July, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) introduced an alternative bill, the ENTREE Act.

Of course, as we well know, an attempt in August to replenish the RRF with $43 billion in emergency funding was blocked by Sen. Paul. In November, Build Back Better was passed. Obviously, the RRF and our industry were left out the $1.7 trillion dollar bill. Likewise, we weren’t included in March’s $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill.

Left Out In the Cold

So, of $3.2 trillion dollars in massive bills passed, zero were earmarked for us.

Today, our senators voted 86 to 11 for $40 billion in aid for Ukraine. However, they voted 52 to 43 to provide $40 billion in aid to American restaurants and bars.

Last month, eleven months after the portal closed, the House voted to replenish the RRF. That left the final push to the Senate.

And today, at least 43 senators made their low opinion of us known.

Image: Alejandro Barba on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

House Votes to Replenish RRF

House Votes to Replenish RRF

by David Klemt

United States Capitol Building dome in greyscale

Eleven months after the closure of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund application portal, Congress has voted on RRF replenishment.

Earlier today, the House voted “yes” on $42 billion for the RRF via the Relief for Restaurants and Other Hard Hit Small Businesses Act of 2022 (HR 3807).

To clarify, the intent is that funds go to original applicants who were left out when the portal closed.

Neither the $1.7 trillion Build Back Better Act nor the $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill passed in March included the RRF Replenishment Act.

So, this news is obviously fantastic. However, it’s also long overdue.

We’ve waited nearly 11 months for movement on relief for our ravaged industry. In comparison to the hospitality industry, the legislative process often moves at a glacial pace.

For obvious reasons, the long delay in replenishing the RRF has been devastating.

Nearly a month ago, I wrote and published “Congress is Abandoning Us.” Some considered the article harsh, others agreed with what I wrote.

To be clear, I stand by what I said after ten months of inaction. However, I’m relieved—cautiously—that the House proved their support for our industry today.

$55 Billion Lifeline

In its current form, the House bill would provide $42 billion. This is the amount believed to be enough to award grants to the original applicants from May of 2021.

Additionally, there’s another $13 billion for businesses in other hard-hit industries. So, the House bill provides a total of $55 billion in relief.

Per bill co-author Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), those who applied last year for the first (and only) round of RRF relief won’t have to re-apply.

Rep. Blumenauer reportedly told Nation’s Restaurant News that “[t]he independent restaurant is the foundation of a livable community.”

Continuing, Rep. Blumenauer told NRN, “We need to have these institutions to provide a foundation for our neighborhoods.”

As far as the source of the $55 billion, the money is supposed to come from funds recovered from 2020 and 2021 pandemic relief programs. This includes billions of dollars stolen through fraudulent relief program claims.

In an effort to combat further fraud and show the public that the funds are indeed going to the correct recipients, the SBA will be required to be transparent about its process.

As it stands, grant recipients will need to spend the funds on eligible uses by March 11, 2023.

Bittersweet

While this is huge news for our industry, it’s somewhat difficult to let go of my frustration fully. The RRF portal opened May 3, 2021. It closed just 21 days later, shutting out an estimated 177,000 grant applicants.

In June of last year, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-PA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced a bill to replenish the RRF.

That was followed in July by the ENTREE Act, introduced by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO).

Then, in August, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) objected to a unanimous consent motion to fund the RRF. Essentially, after that occurred, it was crickets.

As stated above, when the Build Back Better Act was passed in November, relief for our industry was nowhere to be found.

Given all of this, and the fact that the bill must now go before senators for debate and a vote, I find myself still uneasy about the fate of the RRF.

We often say hope isn’t a strategy. However, I hope our senators do the right thing and pass the relief our industry so desperately needs and deserves.

Image: Joshua Sukoff on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Build Back Better…Without Restaurants?

Build Back Better…Without Restaurants or Bars?

by David Klemt

Abandoned bar or restaurant

The Build Back Better Act was passed by the House last Friday without the inclusion of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act.

For those keeping count—me, for instance—the RRF Replenishment Act has seen zero movement since June.

We’re now six months without RRF Replenishment progress. The RRF application portal closed on May, 24.

To put it bluntly, the House once again failed our industry.

Of the $1.7 trillion dollars in the Build Back Better Act, zero are earmarked to replenish the RRF.

Applicants in Limbo

According to the National Restaurant Association, there are at least 177,000 RRF applicants awaiting grants.

Unless the RRF is replenished, those applicants will receive nothing.

For six months now, two bills seeking $60 billion to replenish the RRF have languished. Those bills are the aforementioned RRF Replenishment Act and the ENTREE Act.

The former was introduced by a bipartisan group of representatives and senators. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) introduced the latter.

Unfortunately, the chance to replenish the RRF via a unanimous consent motion was shot down in August. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) objected to $43 billion in emergency funding, killing the RRF.

At this point, it’s difficult to take any statement of support for our industry from members of Congress seriously.

NRA Speaks Out

The same day that the Build Back Better Act passed, NRA vice president Sean Kennedy released a statement.

“We are disappointed that the House passed the Build Back Better Act without including the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act… Passing this bill without including RRF replenishment leaves thousands of small business restaurants teetering on the brink of closure,” reads Kennedy’s statement.

Kennedy also points to specific elements of the Build Back Better Act that can cause further harm to operators and our industry.

In particular, Kennedy states that the NRA “specifically asked Congress to not pass any legislation that would harm restaurants as they rebuild.” Instead, the Build Back Better Act imposes new taxes on small businesses, including restaurants and bars.

Per Kennedy, “this bill newly applies the net investment income tax (NIIT) to active business income for pass-through businesses.”

Read Kennedy’s statement in full here.

It’s possible that the Senate will make changes to the bill. And it’s possible that replenishing the RRF will be among those changes. If that happens, the bill will be sent back to the House, further delaying the crucial assistance our industry needs.

Oh, and the deadline to avoid a government shutdown is December 3.

To tell your lawmakers to replenish the RRF, click here. I know I’ve asked you to do this several times. As frustrating as it’s getting, we need to stick together and keep up the pressure.

Image: Wokandapix from Pixabay

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Months Pass, RRF Still not Replenished

Months Pass, RRF Replenishment Remains Uncertain

by David Klemt

Time has run out hourglass, black and white

If you’re wondering if the RRF Replenishment Act of 2021 or ENTREE Acts are making progress, you’re not alone.

Unfortunately, it appears far too many politicians on all sides are focusing on anything but our industry.

Indeed, it’s apparently more important that they score political “points” for sniping at each other on social media; engage in hyperbole and histrionics; and overall engage in brinksmanship instead of doing anything meaningful for their constituents.

Meanwhile, the industry has lost more than $300 billion in revenue over 19 months. Additionally, we’re short at least one million jobs.

So, it’s not hyperbolic to state this: It’s no longer time for Congress to act, time has very much run out.

It’s up for owners and operators, their teams, and their teams’ families.

Replenish RRF Act

As people familiar with the Restaurant Revitalization Fund will recall, the fund launched with $28.6 billion. Obviously, that was nowhere near enough funding to meet the demand for grants.

The National Restaurant Association estimates that 177,000 grant applicants are still waiting for assistance. Those applications total more than $43 billion.

Essentially, $60 billion would be printed to replenish the RRF. That’s according to the language in the RRF Replenishment Act bill.

In June, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-PA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced the bill.

It’s now the middle of October.

ENTREE Act

Toward the end of July, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) introduced an alternative bill.

A ranking member of the House Committee on Small Business, Rep. Luetkemeyer proposed the Entrepreneurs Need Timely Replenishment for Eating Establishments Act on July 20.

Again, that was in July and it’s now October 25.

Known as the ENTREE Act (acronyms are fun, eh?), this bill wouldn’t just create $60 billion out of thin air.

Instead, per the text of the bill, the ENTREE Act would use unspent funds from the American Rescue Plan and Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

Now What?

In early August, there was an attempt made to replenish the RRF with $48 billion of emergency funding.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), along with a bipartisan group of senators, sought unanimous consent to authorize the funds.

Unfortunately, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) objected to the unanimous consent motion. The measure was blocked due to Sen. Paul’s objection and the RRF didn’t receive any emergency funds.

So, now what? In August, political insiders expressed their opinion that the ENTREE Act wasn’t likely to be passed.

Meanwhile, the RRF Replenishment Act hasn’t made significant progress since it was first introduced in June.

Most recently, members of the Independent Restaurant Coalition held a press conference with Rep. Blumenauer and Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN). During the press conference, it was pointed out that Congress was voting on infrastructure bills that didn’t contain the RRF Replenishment or ENTREE Acts.

The most that can be said currently about any “progress” is that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made a promise that relief for the industry is coming, somehow, during some unknown timeframe.

Great. In the meantime, you, your family members, your friends, and your guests can contact their reps to put more pressure on them to replenish the RRF. You can also click here for more ideas from the IRC on how to get the message across that our representatives need to act now.

Perhaps reminders that every House seat and 34 Senate seats are up for re-election next year will help spur some action.

Image: Eduin Escobar from Pixabay

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

What’s the RRF Replenishment Act?

What’s the RRF Replenishment Act?

by David Klemt

The United States Capitol Building with cloudy sky in background

The ENTREE Act isn’t the only bill seeking to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. In fact, a bipartisan bill predates the ENTREE Act by a month.

So, what’s the difference between that bill and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act of 2021?

Let’s take a look.

Additional Funding

Clearly, the biggest similarity between the two bills is the amount of money both are after.

Both the RRF Replenishment Act and ENTREE Act seek $60 billion.

As people familiar with the RRF will recall, the fund launched with $28.6 billion. Obviously, that was nowhere near enough funding to meet the demand for grants.

The RRF Replenishment Act was introduced in June by the same bipartisan group that first introduced the RRF. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-PA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced the bill on June 3.

Per a press release, nearly $50 billion in grant applications were left outstanding. The RRF application portal was closed just 21 days after launching.

$60 Billion

The biggest difference between the RRF Replenishment and ENTREE acts? Sourcing the $60 billion to replenish the RRF.

Per the text of the bill, the ENTREE Act would use unspent funds from the American Rescue Plan and Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

As for the RRF Replenishment Act, the funding would essentially come from “printing” an additional $60 billion.

Clearly, Americans will have differing opinions when it comes how the RRF is funded. However, using unspent, previously allocated funds does seem like a more logical approach.

So far, there’s no word on how these two bills may impact one another. There’s no news about the bills working in conjunction, just as there’s no news yet about a preference for one over the other.

With all eyes on the Senate and the progress of the infrastructure bill, we’re still awaiting answers on the RRF Replenishment and ENTREE acts.

Image: oljamu from Pixabay

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

What is the ENTREE Act?

What is the ENTREE Act?

by David Klemt

United States Capitol Building on fifty dollar bill

Foodservice and hospitality operators are waiting for Congress to act and replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

Well, that replenishment may come in the form of a bill from Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO).

Congressman Luetkemeyer is a ranking member of the House Committee on Small Business.

Restaurant Revitalization Fund Empty

As operators know, it didn’t take long for the RRF to be depleted entirely.

The Small Business Administration opened the RRF application portal on May 3. Just 21 days later, the portal was closed to new applicants.

More than 60 percent of eligible applicants in need were not awarded grants from the $28.6 billion fund.

Clearly, that amount was nowhere near enough to meet the needs of our industry.

People have been calling for Congress to #replenishRRF ever since the RRF portal was closed on May 24.

Entrepreneurs Need Timely Replenishment for Eating Establishments Act

To be fair, Congress acted quickly to at least address the SBA’s shortcomings in handling the RRF.

Early in June, a bipartisan group introduced Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act of 2021. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-PA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced the bill on June 3.

The bill seeks $60 billion to replenish the RRF and the funds would essentially come from “printing more money.”

However, Rep. Luetkemeyer introduced the Entrepreneurs Need Timely Replenishment for Eating Establishments Act on July 20.

The aptly (if unwieldy) named bill is also proposing $60 billion. However, the funds would come from a combination of sources.

ENTREE Act Funding

Both sources would pour unspent, previously allocated funds into the ENTREE Act.

Rep. Luetkemeyer’s bill proposes using state and local funds from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

The ENTREE Act would also secure funds from Economic Injury Disaster Loans that have yet to be spent.

Currently, there’s no indication if Congress intends for these bills to somehow work together. Also, no date has been put forth regarding voting on either the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act or ENTREE Act.

However, we can put pressure on Congress by asking them to act quickly on these bills. So, let’s come together and contact our representatives—it can take just 30 seconds.

Image: Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

We Need to Join Forces on the RRF

We Need to Join Forces on the RRF

by David Klemt

The United States Capitol Building with blue sky and white clouds in the background

It’s time for all hospitality professionals to come together and tell Congress to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

Honestly, it’s well beyond time for us to all join forces and send our message to Congress.

Owners, operators, managers, and team members need to contact their representatives. Additionally, they need to encourage their friends and family members to do the same.

If we’re going to stop the damage to our industry, this needs to be done.

State of the RRF

Per this download from the National Restaurant Association, 455,304 eligible restaurants applied for RRF grants.

In total, 278,304 restaurants were awarded grants.

To be fair, that’s excellent news. And the Small Business Administration should be applauded for providing lifelines to nearly 280,000 restaurants.

However, the $28.6 billion the fund was seeded with was never going to be enough. Also, the SBA’s RRF portal was open nowhere near long enough.

Toward the end of May, Republican members of Congress sent a letter to the SBA. In it, they criticize the SBA for closing the portal so quickly.

To provide context, the RRF application portal was open a mere 21 days. Further context: the SBA made it clear before the RRF portal was opened that only priority applications would be processed for the first 21 days.

Replenish the RRF

According to the NRA, 177,000 eligible RRF applicants were not awarded grants.

That number represents a total of $43.6 billion in grants that haven’t been awarded.

So, not only does the SBA need to reopen the RRF, they need to replenish it with at least $43.6 billion. The NRA is asking that Congress refill the RRF with $50 billion.

We all know that the situation is dire. Per the NRA, 1.3 million jobs have been lost. Since the first 14 months of the Covid-19 pandemic, restaurants have lost $290 billion in sales. Obviously, that number has grown. At least 90,000 restaurants have either closed their doors long-term or forever.

However, this isn’t only about our industry. As the NRA shows, every dollar spent on this industry generates $2 for farming, baking, fishing, and other industries.

Looking at the numbers makes it clear: We all need to carve out the few minutes it will take to tell our representatives what we want.

What do we want? For the RRF to be replenished. Click here to tell Congress to replenish the RRF with at least $50 billion, and make sure to spread this message on social by using #ReplishRRF.

There are millions and millions of us in this industry. Now more than ever, we need to join forces and pull in the same direction.

Image: Louis Velazquez on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

State of the RRF: By the Numbers

State of the RRF: By the Numbers

by David Klemt

Wad of dollar bills with red rubber band

The “tale of the tape” of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund tells a clear story: the RRF needs an injection of tens of billions of dollars.

Clearly, $28.6 was nowhere near enough to award every eligible restaurant and bar with a grant.

In fact, the RRF would need at least another $50 billion to serve all eligible applicants.

The Numbers

First, the Small Business Administration is to be commended for setting up the RRF portal, making the application process clear, and handling applications well.

However, there’s one glaring issue with the RRF and the review and awards process. I’ll get to that in the next section.

Per the National Restaurant Association, more than 362,000 applications were submitted via the RRF portal.

In total, the applications add up to $75 billion in grant requests. Again, the RRF was funded by the government with $28.6 billion. It doesn’t take a mathematician to see that the fund was severely underfunded.

Controversy

Last week, a number of Republican members of Congress sent a letter to the SBA. The gist of their message was that the RRF’s closure was premature. Therefore, the group concluded, non-priority applicants wouldn’t receive grants or even have the opportunity to apply for grants.

In the letter, which can be reviewed here, the authors also took shots at Democrats, the Biden Administration, and undocumented immigrants.

Setting politics aside, the announcement of the RRF’s portal closure was inarguably premature. The application process was first opened on Monday, May 3. For the first 21 days, the SBA announced that while all eligible entities could apply, only priority applicants would be processed and awarded grants.

However, the RRF portal closed to applications on Monday, May 24…21 days after it first opened. The members of Congress who penned the letter to the SBA have a point: the SBA closed the RRF portal after only operating within the priority window.

Now What?

There’s no other way to put this: The RRF needs more funding.

Essentially, it needs twice the funding it had when it was first seeded. There’s zero guarantee that Congress will address this matter, but at least a handful of lawmakers are aware of the dire situation.

Two weeks ago, the NRA launched a petition urging the government to replenish the RRF. Of course, the RRF also needs to be reopened for applications, and the application process needs to be open to all eligible applicants.

There’s no promise the petition will achieve the desired result but we must do something. Click here to sign the petition and tell Congress the RRF needs to be replenished and reopened.

Image: Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

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