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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

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

Congress is Abandoning Us

Congress is Abandoning Us

by David Klemt

United States Capitol Building at night, black and white

The Biden Administration and Congress have elected to turn their backs on tens of thousands of restaurants and bars.

No funds will be included in the proposed spending bill to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

Congress is expected to vote on the massive spending bill this Friday. As has been reported, the RRF Replenishment Act will not be part of this bill.

“Today’s news that Congress is walking away from the RRF is a gut punch to the 177,000 restaurants who now have some incredibly difficult decisions ahead of them,” said Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of the National Restaurant Association.

This abandoning of the industry by Congress doesn’t just affect 177,000 venues.

Generally speaking, the average restaurant in America has less than 50 employees. Cut that number in half to be conservative and 177,000 restaurants employ nearly 4.5 million people.

Essentially, Congress and the current administration have said that well over four million lives simply do. not. matter.

This is to say nothing of the other jobs in other industries lost when restaurants, bars, and other hospitality industry businesses struggle or close.

Currently, Democrats are laying this failure at the feet of GOP leadership. It’s convenient, I suppose, to claim one party objected to the inclusion of the RRF in this omnibus bill.

However, I view this as a failure of every member of Congress. We were promised a vote on the RRF Replenishment Act. That “promise” has proven to be as empty as the supposed support our politicians have been expressing for the industry.

To say I’m unhappy is painfully inadequate.

Should We Be Surprised?

The $1.7 trillion Build Back Better Act was passed by the House last November. Of course, the bill didn’t include the RRF Replenishment Act, either.

It’s clear now that that failure was a harbinger of this latest one. Therefore, it’s clear we’re on our own and must respond at the polls.

Congress has had ten months to replenish the RRF. The closest they came was a unanimous consent motion shot down last August by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).

Politicians are already backpedaling, attempting to mitigate fallout, and once again offering meaningless words. Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) reportedly said the following in response to this news:

“I’ve talked to Senator Schumer already. If we can bring it to the floor as a separate bill, we might do that. We’re not giving up.”

Please. They gave up on us and our industry months ago. As one Twitter user put it succinctly, “Will not happen if it doesn’t go into the omnibus.”

Personally, I don’t see how I can possibly vote for any of Nevada’s current members of Congress. They’ll likely never read this, and if they do they likely won’t care, but these are the people who lost my votes yesterday:

  • Rep. Mark Amodei (R)
  • Rep. Steven Horsford (D)
  • Rep. Susie Lee (D)
  • Rep. Dina Titus (D)
  • Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D)
  • Sen. Jacky Rosen (D)

We Go it Alone

As usual, we’re left to look out for ourselves and each other. The problem with constant praise for being resilient, resourceful, and scrappy is that people assume this industry never needs help. Worse, many believe we don’t deserve the help other industries receive.

Well, I think I speak for a lot of the industry when I say we’re tired of being resilient. In fact, I believe Eileen Wayner, CEO of Tales of the Cocktail, said that to me last year before we recorded an episode of Bar Hacks.

Yes, we’re resilient. We’re tough, scrappy, resourceful, adaptable… All of that is true. It’s also true that this industry has endured—and continues to endure and feel the ramifications of—an unprecedented two years. We’re tired and we need help.

It’s clear that help, at best, “might” come. After ten months of waiting, I see that “might” translates from political speak to plain English as, “You’re all on your own.”

Image: MIKE STOLL on Unsplash

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

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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