U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Susan Wild (D-PA) introduced legislation last week that calls for a $120 billion restaurant stabilization grant program to help independent restaurants following the COVID-19 crisis.

H.R. 7197, the Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive (RESTAURANTS) Act of 2020, would create a grant program to specifically help independent restaurants focus on long-term structural challenges facing the industry and ensure they can reemploy 11 million workers.

“Our independent, local restaurants have been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Forced to operate through takeout and delivery only, many family-operated restaurants in my community have lost thousands of dollars in potential income,” Fitzpatrick said. “The mom and pop diner and deli on Main Street are hurting right now. Without immediate help, these local businesses and their hardworking employees will be suffering from the economic impact of this pandemic for years to come.”

Along with Fitzpatrick and Wild, H.R. 7197 was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) in the U.S. House of Representatives, while U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate.

The stabilization grant program would be administered by the Department of the Treasury and would be made available to food service or drinking establishments that are not publicly traded or part of a chain with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name. It will provide grant values to cover the difference between revenues from 2019 and projected revenues through 2020, with a maximum grant of $10 million.

The funding will not need to be paid back and will be made available through 2020.

“Our restaurants are part of what makes the economy, and culture, of the Greater Lehigh Valley thrive, and without immediate support, the livelihoods of tens of millions of individuals and families remain at risk,” Wild said. “For months, I’ve been hearing from local restaurant owners who need strong action now to survive, and this legislation is the first step forward.”

Approximately 5.5 million restaurant workers lost their jobs in April alone, accounting for 27 percent of total job losses in the month.

There are roughly half a million independent restaurants in the United States, which account for about 76 percent of the 658,000 total restaurants and bars in the country. A recent study conducted by the Independent Restaurant Coalition found that 85 percent of independent restaurants are likely to close by the end of the year if direct aid is not provided to the industry.

“The bipartisan Restaurant Revitalization Fund has given America’s 500,000 independent restaurants a day of hope,” the Independent Restaurant Coalition said.