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In FIRST Visit To Upstate As Majority Leader, Schumer Says Too Many Local Restaurants Across The Capital Region Are On The Brink Of Closure; Over Half Of New York’s Restaurants Will Not Survive The Next Six Months Without Dedicated Federal Relief 

Capital Region Restaurant Employment Down Nearly 50% During Pandemic—And That Is Just Tip Of ‘Iceberg’; Locals Also Need Larger COVID Relief On The Menu, Like Direct Checks, School Aid & More To Weather Rest Of Pandemic

Schumer: Capital Region’s Economy Along With Its Beloved Restaurants Are On The Front Burner

Standing in front of TORO Cantina, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer unveiled a new restaurant relief fund, modeled on the widely supported, bipartisan RESTAURANTS Act, which will provide a down-payment of $25 billion in flexible grants as a lifeline for New York’s restaurant industry, one of the hardest hit by the economic effects of the COVID pandemic. Schumer was joined by Jaime Ortiz, chef and owner of TORO Cantina, and Melissa Fleischut, President and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association.

The senator explained that the restaurant grant assistance he has including in the next COVID relief bill would be administrated by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and provide much-needed relief to Capital Region Restaurants. To provide comprehensive support to local restaurants, grants from the fund could be used alongside first and second Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance, and the Employee Retention Tax Credit. Food service or drinking establishments, including caterers, brewpubs, taprooms, and tasting rooms, that are not part of an affiliated group with more than 20 locations would be eligible for the grants.

“The Capital Region economy has been hit hard by the pandemic, burning our beloved restaurant industry,” said Senator Schumer. “Restaurants and bars are the heartbeat of our Main Streets and downtown districts but sadly are on life support as the first to make sacrifices and close for the sake of public health. It’s time for the federal government to whip up some federal dollars and finally serve the restaurants that have served our communities for years.”

Schumer added, “It’s one of my highest priorities to move the Capital Region’s restaurants to the front burner and dish out relief ASAP to keep both the restaurant industry and the Albany’s economy cooking.”

Schumer said the federal aid would aim to provide a lifeline to struggling restaurants and help recuperate some of the industry’s significant revenue losses. The new restaurants relief fund will be designed to provide flexible grants that can be used to cover payroll, mortgages or rent, setup for outdoor seating, PPE, paid leave, food and other supplies, or debt and other expenses. Food service or drinking establishments, including caterers, brewpubs, taprooms, and tasting rooms, that are not part of an affiliated group with more than 20 locations will be eligible.

"We are thankful for Senator Schumer and his advocacy on behalf of the state’s restaurant industry," said Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association. "We’re closing in on one year of struggling to make ends meet and scraping by just to keep our doors open. While some restaurants will never reopen, Senator Schumer's direct grant relief fund, based on the bipartisan RESTAURANTS Act, is a sign of hope for the rest and will be vital to their long term survival. There is simply no way to make up for the billions of dollars lost by the industry without federal assistance."

Capital Region restaurant employment was down 47% in the second quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter during the previous year. Pre-pandemic, the Glens Falls metro area (Warren and Washington counties) had the nation’s 15th highest density of restaurants, with there being 230 restaurants for every 100,000 people, compared to the US average of 174 per 100,000. The Glens Falls metro even ranked higher than the New York-Newark-Jersey City metro, which at 228 restaurants per 100,000 people ranked 19th in the nation. The Albany-Schenectady-Troy metro ranked 54th.

According to the most recent survey released by the New York State Restaurant Association (NYSRA), 54% – over half – of New York restaurants said they likely would not survive the next six months without federal relief. This, compared to 37% of restaurants nationwide, indicates the dire situation of the restaurant industry in New York, Schumer said. NYSRA also estimated from the previously mentioned survey that approximately 3,833 restaurants in Upstate New York have already been forced to close due to the pandemic.

More details on Senator Schumer’s new restaurant relief fund appear below:

Grant Maximum – $10 million per restaurant group, $5 million per individual restaurant

Eligible Expenses – Payroll and benefits, mortgage, rent, utilities, maintenance, supplies including protective equipment and cleaning materials, food, operational expenses, covered supplier costs as defined by the SBA under the PPP program, sick leave, and any other expenses deemed essential by the Administrator.

Covered Period – Grants can be spent on eligible expenses from 2/15/20 through 12/31/21 and the Administrator may extend the period through two years from enactment if conditions warrant.

Set Asides – $5 billion of the $25 billion total is reserved for restaurants with less than $500,000 in gross receipts in 2019 for the first 60 days of the program. During the initial 21-day period, the administrator will prioritize awarding grants to eligible entities that are owned or controlled by women or Veterans or are socially and economically disadvantaged businesses.