What Congress Is Doing to Address COVID-19
An update on the federal stimulus packageJBF Impact Team
March 25, 2020
We can't thank the restaurant and chef community enough for your ongoing support across the nation, from sharing your stories and posts to #SaveRestaurants on social media to caring for your staff, your local communities, your families, and yourselves. Thousands of chefs, restaurant workers, and other culinary professionals around the country united, built a movement, and pushed Congressional negotiators toward providing real, meaningful help for our workers and the independent restaurant industry.
Many thanks to our partners at the Independent Restaurant Coalition for leading this effort, and a special thanks to alums from our Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change—you’ve stepped up to lead within the IRC and your own communities.
As you've no doubt heard by now, the White House and Senate reached a deal overnight on a stimulus package. According to our partners at the IRC, several topline provisions that support chefs around the country are in the package, called the CARES Act, including:
- Providing aid to unemployed restaurant workers: the bill includes four months of unemployment insurance instead of the three months that was originally crafted. Additionally, a retention tax credit for employers to encourage businesses to keep workers on payroll during the crisis was added.
- Expanding loan forgiveness: provisions to help you keep workers on payroll and re-hire laid off workers. The loan amounts and loan forgiveness provisions were expanded to cover expenses beyond payroll. The final bill includes allowable expenses like mortgage or rent payments, and utilities. The amount forgiven is reduced proportional to reductions in payroll—an important protection for employee retention.
- Including a “per restaurant” distinction: restaurants will be assessed for eligibility for loans on a per-location basis. In addition to the 500-employee threshold we saw before, there is also an avenue for businesses to qualify based on existing industry-specific SBA thresholds and a mechanism for independent contractors to be eligible. Restaurants are the only industry to get this specific treatment in the stimulus.
- Broadening loan forgiveness timeframe: the final bill moves the start date for loan forgiveness from March 1 to February 15 to account for our industry having to lay off workers earlier than others.
The Beard Foundation’s goal is to share with you the best, most relevant information, as quickly as possible. We will partner with experts to provide a deep dive of relevant provisions and continue to share updates about final legislation and process. Sign up for our email list to receive another update from us later today or this evening with more high-level information on this agreement once it is passed.
We now expect the Senate to vote on the agreement this afternoon. Following Senate action, the House of Representatives will take the bill up by Unanimous Consent (UC) process. This allows members to not have to travel to Washington, D.C. to vote.
Any one member could object to the UC process, thereby slowing down the process. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has stated that she is hopeful that will not happen, and members will not need to return in order to pass the CARES legislation.
President Trump is expected to immediately sign the bill following House and Senate passage. The process will then transfer to agencies for additional regulations and instruction on how the dollars will be accessible.
Our work isn’t done yet. The House still needs to pass this bill. Call your member of Congress now at 202.224.3121. For real time updates, we recommend following the Independent Restaurant Coalition on Twitter and Instagram.