U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) joined a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers to request that congressional leaders include $120 billion in federal funds for independent restaurants in any forthcoming pandemic relief package or year-end spending measure.

“America faces its most difficult phase in the fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19),” the lawmakers wrote in a Dec. 4 letter sent to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and U.S. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). 

“For the second time this year, restaurants and bars are having to limit operations or close their doors completely, raising concerns about their ability to survive the long winter ahead,” wrote Sen. Wicker, Rep. Fitzpatrick, and 161 other legislators. “They need quick relief to keep their workers employed and hold onto their businesses.”

The members urged Congress “to act speedily” and pass the bipartisan Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed To Survive Act of 2020, also known as the RESTAURANTS Act of 2020, H.R. 7197/S. 4012, which Sen. Wicker sponsored on June 18 in his chamber, and Rep. Fitzpatrick cosponsored on June 15 in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

If enacted, the bill temporarily establishes and provides funding for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, from which the U.S. Treasury Department would make grants to eligible food and beverage purveyors to cover specified costs, according to the congressional record bill summary.

The revitalization fund could be used for myriad expenses, including payroll and benefits, food, utilities, rent, maintenance, and supplies, according to their letter, which cited a June 2020 study on the legislation that found it would generate at least $183 billion in primary benefits and $65 billion in secondary benefits, more than double the amount of the fund itself. 

“This type of economic multiplier is needed now more than ever,” the lawmakers wrote, noting that the food and beverage industry is still down 2.3 million jobs since the pandemic began, a number that is expected to rise with increasing infection rates and new restrictions. 

Currently, the proposed bill, which passed the House on Oct. 1 as part of the Heroes Act, H.R. 925, is supported by 215 other House members, 49 Senate cosponsors, restaurateurs, and a large coalition of industries that rely on restaurants.