On Monday, April 20, the National Restaurant Association released the results of its survey on how the restaurant industry has been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis – and the results are catastrophic. In Maryland nearly 150,000 restaurant employees have lost their jobs and 40% of all restaurants are closed – that’s 4,500 businesses.
Restaurants are the most impacted industry in America, and we cannot stand by and let them fail.
Restaurants are the backbone of every community, socially and economically. Most people don’t realize how many jobs restaurants are responsible for. They support food distribution companies, local farmers, order cleaning supplies, glassware, plates, linens, chef coats, uniforms, HVAC repair, refrigeration equipment and repair, plumbing and drain cleaning, computer systems, reservation systems, advertising, banking, accountants, payroll processing – the list goes on and on.
They also contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to local government in the form of taxes. If we let half of our restaurants fail, then countless industries will also suffer.
Our state and federal governments have made attempts to help small businesses, but their efforts have not helped most restaurants. Government programs have run out of money, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) not only ran out of money (and will run out again) but has unrealistic requirements that most restaurants can’t meet.
Many believe that if we just open the economy the crowds will return, and everything will be fine. But that isn’t the case for restaurants which for the most part are not generating income. To compound matters, employees are afraid to come to work and regular business won’t return for months to come.
This is why the PPP isn’t helpful to restaurants because under its rules the loan funds must be spent before June 30. Even if restaurants were allowed to open for full dine-in service today, the PPP still would not be enough for restaurants to survive this crisis.
The restaurants of Maryland and across the country need targeted relief. History has seen the federal government bailout fewer than 25 banks, save less than 10 airlines and prop up fewer than five automobile manufacturers – yet it stands by and is willing to let the restaurants that hold our communities together fail due to no fault of their own.
Maryland restaurants are not looking for a bailout. They are looking for real relief that will enable them to rehire their employees and fully reopen when the time comes, rather than close their doors permanently. They need Congress to create the Restaurant and Foodservice Industry Recovery Fund and make changes to the PPP. They need real action from our elected officials to stand up and confirm that the 150,000 restaurant employees who are out of work and the 4,500 restaurants that are closed are crucial to the economy and our social well-being.
Restaurants and their employees offer the path back to normalcy and the way to come back together as a community. We cannot afford to let them fail.