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WASHINGTON — President Biden boosted his administration’s multibillion-dollar program for the hard-hit restaurant industry, a sector that has sustained significant coronavirus-related losses.
“When the pandemic hit, restaurant owners and operators were resilient, creative and generous. Almost overnight restaurants put in place safety measures to protect their employees — and to protect us,” said Biden in remarks from the White House’s State Dining Room.
The White House said the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund established as part of the administration’s COVID-19 relief bill has already received applications from more than 186,000 restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments. Approved businesses were able to receive grants equal to their COVID-era losses, up to $10 million per individual business. The White House has also set side $9.5 billion for small restaurants and bars, especially those that generate under $50,000 in revenue annually.
Nearly 450,000 restaurant jobs have been lost since January, and as the country begins to gradually reopen, the industry is bracing for promised assistance from the Biden administration. Though not all damage can be undone — more than 110,000 bars and restaurants have closed since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, with sales plummeting by $240 billion.
Biden said that the White House legislation is likely to assist 100,000 restaurants and other eligible facilities.
Biden stressed the universality of the plight of restaurants, citing data from the National Restaurant Association that over half of Americans have worked in the industry at some level.
“For one in three Americans, a restaurant provided their first job,” said Biden. “This is an industry where the staff feels like family and is often family.”
Earlier Wednesday morning, Biden visited a D.C.-area business that participated in the relief fund. It was his first in-person restaurant visit since moving into the White House in January.
“We want our economy to recover in a way that deals everyone in,” Biden said.
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