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Schumer Says Too Many Local Restaurants Across World-Class Food & Beverage Destination Finger Lakes Region Were & Are At Risk Of Closure; Many Of State’s Restaurants Might Not Survive The Next Six Months Without Dedicated Federal Relief—Which Is Now On The Way To Ontario & Finger Lakes 

Now Finger Lakes Restaurants, Tasting & Tap Rooms Can Apply For DIRECT Fed Assistance To Get Through The Pandemic and Recover

Schumer: Relief For Finger Lakes Restaurants Is On The Menu 

Standing at Thirsty Turtle Bar & Grill in the Finger Lakes Region, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer formally announced that New York restaurants are now eligible for their own, DIRECT, federal pandemic relief, thanks to a provision he championed in the American Rescue Plan which he led to passage in the Senate. With New York state boosting Ontario County restaurant capacity to 75% less than a month ago, Schumer said more help is on the way for the Finger Lakes economy BUT that local restaurants, wineries, and breweries need to apply, and that the SBA will need to be at the ready to help locals. Schumer said he is pushing the Small Business Administration to stand up the new program ASAP and that he wants New York eateries first in line for these funds, given New York has been so hard hit by the pandemic.

“Even with 75% capacity rules that started on March 19th, Finger Lakes restaurants, wineries, breweries, and their employees that make the Finger Lakes a world-class food and beverage destination and drive its regional economy still need immediate federal relief to weather COVID because too many of the places we know and love could close without the help, leaving a giant hole in our local economy,” said Senator Schumer. “That is why I fought so hard to make sure this relief bill included a vital ingredient – a restaurants relief fund based on the RESTAURANTS Act– to get our restaurants ‘cooking’ again. Getting federal dollars into the hands of struggling small businesses, like restaurants, wineries, and breweries in the Finger Lakes, not only makes sense, but it’s the recipe needed to keep small businesses like the Thirsty Turtle Bar & Grill going.”     

The new restaurant relief fund, modeled on the widely supported, bipartisan RESTAURANTS Act, will provide a down-payment of $28.6 billion in flexible grants through the Small Business Administration (SBA) as a lifeline for New York’s restaurant industry, one of the hardest hit by the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. 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. 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.

Across the Finger Lakes over 60 restaurants have now closed due to the local industry’s struggles. Schumer said that with the Finger Lakes poised to get a slice of the $28.6 billion dollar federal pot, local restaurants, wineries, and breweries we know and love in Ontario County and across the region can stay open for business, recover, and create and opportunities for workers to return to old or new restaurant jobs can emerge. Schumer also said the countless jobs Finger Lakes food establishments provide will be less uncertain now that this direct relief is on the way. The restaurant, brewery, and winery owners talked about their own pandemic struggles and the fight to keep the doors open along with their hope for the future with this relief package.  

Ted Rund Jr., owner of Thirsty Turtle Bar & Grill said, “Over this past year we’ve endured falling revenues, empty dining rooms, and have had to furlough some employees.  As a sports bar during football season especially, our restaurant would be packed, however this year customers did not come out and regulations limited our business opportunities. Especially for our employees, and for restaurants like us, we all still face uncertainty on the horizon to come. Having access to Senator Schumer’s Restaurant Act is a welcome lifeline to bridge us through.”

John Urlaub, Owner of Rohrbach Brewing Company and Past Chairman of the Board NYS Restaurant Association said, “Restaurants rely on employing residents of our local communities. Those who have been laid off are neighbors and friends. In 2019, the greater Rochester Finger Lakes region had an estimated over 40,000 restaurant employees. Upon last count, at least 60 restaurants here have closed, and many more are on the verge. At Rohrbach’s our food service operation revenue was down more than 60%, and we were forced to furlough more than half of our staff.  This was a hardship not only for the business and our ability to cover overhead cost, but more importantly a hardship for our team members that rely on us for income to support their families.  This is an industry that runs at a 3-5% profit margin. Without this aid, it will take years for independent restaurant owners to dig out of this hole.  The restaurant industry is a vital part of any community and has fought to stay open throughout the ebbs and flows of regulations and mandates. The cost of these constant changes has been astronomical to both businesses and employees. We need help. Senator Schumer and the Restaurant Act are a lifeline to an industry on the verge of collapse.  Senator Schumer's direct grant relief fund, based on the bipartisan RESTAURANTS Act, is a vital lifeline needed for the survival of our local restaurants and their thousands of employees.”

Jim Trezise, President of WineAmerica and the National Association of American Wineries said, "The new restaurant revitalization fund will boost the American wine industry in multiple ways. First, wineries which qualify for the grants can invest in their employees, tasting rooms, outdoor construction and other aspects of their businesses. Second, as restaurants use the grants to recover from the Covid-caused downturn, they will again be stocking up on wine. And the wine wholesalers who serve as a bridge between the wineries and restaurants will be economically healthier due to the increased business. All of this will also generate more excise and sales taxes for the federal and state governments. We are very grateful for Senate Majority Leader Schumer's leadership on this vital initiative."

In the Finger Lakes region, a hot spot for world-class wine, food, and craft beverages, approximately 4,000 eating and drinking establishments employed an estimated over 40,000 people before the pandemic. In a report 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 thousands of restaurants in New York have already been forced to close due to the pandemic.

“This is a critical moment for our Finger Lakes food and beverage establishments,” Schumer added. “The SBA must roll up their sleeves ASAP and begin the hard but important work of getting these funds to our Ontario County restaurants.”

Schumer was joined by Ted Rund Jr. (owner of Thirsty Turtle Bar & Grill), John Urlaub (Owner of Rohrbach Brewing Company and Past Chairman of the Board NYS Restaurant Association), Oskar Bynke, Owner of Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard & Treasurer for the New York Wine and Grape foundation), Jim Trezise, President of WineAmerica and the National Association of American Wineries, Jack Marren (Town of Victor Supervisor and Chairman of the Ontario County Board of Supervisors), Amy DiPrima (Executive Director Victor Chamber of Commerce), Kathy Rayburn (Town of Victor Director of Economic Development).

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 $28.6 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.

Schumer also briefly discussed other wins for the Finger Lakes region in the American Rescue Plan. Out of the estimated more than $100 billion headed to New York, the Finger Lakes will receive:

  • Approximately $1.4 billion in direct payments for more than an estimated 556,000 households in the Finger Lakes Region. An estimated 51,000 households in Ontario County will receive $127 million, an estimated 344,000 households in Monroe County will receive approximately $ 858 million, an estimated 41,500 households in Wayne County will receive approximately $104 million, an estimated 29,000 households in Livingston County will receive approximately $72 million, an estimated 18,500 households in Orleans County will receive approximately $46 million, an estimated 26,500 households in Genesee County will receive approximately $66 million, an estimated 18,000 households in Wyoming County will receive approximately $46 million, an estimated 16,000 households in Seneca County will receive approximately $39  million, and an estimated 11,500 households in Yates County will receive approximately $29 million.
  • More than $566.31 million in state and local funding directly for the Finger Lakes Region – including over $21.29 million for Ontario County, over $143.86 million for Monroe County, and over $17.44 million for Wayne County.
  • More than $163.8 million for institutions of higher education located in the Finger Lakes region
  • $45.5 million going towards the Rochester Transit Services (RTS), $12,061,336 for Rochester’s Frederick Douglass Airport, and $219,000 for other Finger Lakes airports.

The Finger Lakes will also receive a sizable portion of the following funds:

  • Medicaid FMAP Increase: $2.7 Billion($2.1 billion already delivered from Schumer pushing President Biden to extend through the end of the calendar year, in addition to approximately 600 million from a targeted enhanced FMAP for home and community-based services from this legislation)
  • Amtrak Relief: $1.7 Billion (Relief for Amtrak to help maintain operations and other expenditures during the pandemic, especially in New York.)
  • Airline Payroll Support Program Enhancement: $15 Billion (The CARES Act Airline Payroll Support Program which will save thousands of New York airline and airline contractor jobs by keeping workers on payroll without furloughs or reducing pay rates and benefits until March 31, 2021 New York will receive sizable share of these funds.)
  • Child Care and Help for NY Families: $5.3 Billion
  • Enhanced Unemployment Benefits for NYers: $21.7 Billion
  • New Covid-19 Vaccine Procurement and Testing: $4 Billion
  • Small Business, Restaurant, and Live Venue Relief: $57.8 Billion
  • Broadband Connectivity: $632 Million