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Restaurants to benefit big with COVID-19 relief bill

ap photo In this Feb. 11 file photo, Edith Cordova, co-owner of Cinco de Mayo restaurant, delivers food for customers dining outside, in New York.

NEW YORK — Restaurants devastated by the coronavirus outbreak are getting a lifeline from the pandemic relief package that’s awaiting President Joe Biden’s signature.

The bill that gained final congressional approval Wednesday adds money to the Paycheck Protection Program and provides indirect help to small businesses in general through stimulus payments and unemployment benefits. But restaurants got the biggest share of direct help: $28.6 billion in grants for restaurants whose revenue fell in 2020 as a result of the pandemic.

The bill calls for grants equal to the amount of restaurants’ revenue losses, up to a maximum of $10 million per company and $5 million per location. Eligible companies cannot own more than 20 locations, and they can’t be publicly traded. The bill sets aside $5 billion for the smallest restaurants, those whose annual revenue is $500,000 or less.

Industry groups welcomed the grants. The National Restaurant Association, an industry organization, noted that the Senate added $3.6 billion to the $25 billion allocated in the original House bill. While the $28.6 billion in the bill was only about a tenth of the amount of money the industry has lost during the pandemic, the restaurant group sees it as a win.

“It’s going to keep doors open. The smallest and hardest hit are going to get the help they’ve needed the most,” said Sean Kennedy, an executive vice president at the group.

Restaurants were decimated by the pandemic that led to government-ordered shutdowns and that is still keeping many diners away. As of Dec. 1, over 110,000 U.S. restaurants were closed either temporarily or permanently.

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