BURLINGTON – Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., has proposed a $120 billion grant program to assist the restaurant industry.

On Monday, he held a press conference in Burlington with restaurant owners to discuss the legislation.

“Vermont’s restaurants are often the lifeblood of our communities, where we catch up and socialize with our loved ones and neighbors,” said Welch. “We need a strong food industry in Vermont, which supports local jobs and suppliers, farms, and our downtowns. The SBA loan programs do not fit all of the needs of the many restaurants hit hard by this pandemic, who have closed for months and are just now opening at greatly reduced capacity. This bill is a critical step to ensure our treasured local establishments are able to survive this pandemic to serve our friends and neighbors for many years.”

“The Vermont Restaurant Coalition is grateful to Representative Peter Welch for co-sponsoring the RESTAURANTS Act,” said Sue Bette, co-owner of Bluebird BBQ and co-founder of the Vermont Independent Restaurant Coalition. “This bill will not only save hundreds of restaurants in Vermont but will also serve to provide secure employment for our teams, preserve our local supply chain, and maintain vibrant downtowns. We would also like to acknowledge the diligent work of the Independent Restaurant Coalition which helped bring this legislation to fruition.”

Welch partnered with Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and eight other colleagues to introduce the RESTAURANTS Act (H.R. 7197) last week. The $120 billion grant program would:

  • Be available to food service or drinking establishments, including caterers, that are not publicly traded or part of a chain with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name.
  • Provide assistance to cover the difference between revenues from 2019 and projected revenues through 2020.
  • Include an initial 14 day period when funds will only be made available to restaurants with $1.5 million or less in profit to guarantee that small local restaurants receive funds.
  • Provide coverage for payroll (not including employee compensation exceeding $100,000 per year), benefits, mortgage and rent payments, utilities, maintenance, supplies (including personal protective equipment and cleaning materials), food, debt obligations to suppliers, and any other expenses deemed essential by the Secretary of the Treasury.

Some restaurants were forced to temporarily close during March and April, while others were able to remain open for take out and delivery. Restaurants may now open at 50 percent capacity.

In addition to months of lost revenue, restaurants also face new costs for personal protective equipment and other supplies to meet new health requirements, Welch noted in his press statement.