Additional Coronavirus Spending For Businesses Unlikely, With Possible Exception For Restaurants
Amid mounting fears about the rapidly spreading omicron variant and its far-reaching effects, some federal lawmakers are considering offering additional financial help for businesses including restaurants, but it’s unclear whether those plans will move forward and how much additional stimulus spending they might bring.
In December, two legislators — Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland and Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi — drafted a preliminary plan for $68B of additional federal stimulus spending to help businesses such as restaurants, gyms and live performance venues, which remain affected by the pandemic, The Washington Post reported.
A Wednesday report by CNN, however, said talks with other lawmakers have stalled, with no legislation resulting from those early discussions and a lack of support from the White House for another round of spending, with one possible exception.
“There might be something small for restaurants,” a senior official in the Biden administration told CNN. “But the economy is booming, there are millions of open jobs, and we do not believe people should be sitting at home if they are vaccinated and boosted, as most adults are.”
Asked by CNN if the prospect of additional stimulus was being taken seriously by the administration, the official said no, though they did leave the door open for that position to shift “if something changes.”
The omicron variant’s appearance has caused additional troubles for an industry still working to bounce back from the hurdles the pandemic posed over the last two years, and has brought staff shortages that have made it hard to keep doors open, leading, in some cases, to temporary closures.
In early 2021, a $1.9 trillion stimulus package was approved that included a nearly $29B Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a tax-free grant program. The National Restaurant Federation has been campaigning for a $60B replenishment of the fund since it ran out last year.
“Without help from Congress, thousands of restaurants will continue to struggle to remain open and serve their communities,” a statement on the federation’s website says.