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Restaurants seek second round of taxpayer aid as omicron impacts business | Illinois


(The Center Square) – Omicron’s surge is causing restaurants to wonder if they’ll make it through the winter, prompting many to seek another round of aid from federal taxpayers.

More than 3,300 small restaurant operators signed a letter last month requesting the U.S. Congress approve more funds, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Omicron dampened what is usually the biggest season for restaurants over Christmas and New Year’s Day weeks and continues to keep customers away, Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Toia told The Center Square.

“It’s having an impact,” he said. “It’s having an impact on team members not going to work. It’s having an impact on customers canceling reservations.”

Restaurants are hoping Congress will replenish the federal fund used last year to buoy the industry, Toia said. Initially, Congress allocated $28.6 billion through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF). Restaurants are seeking $60 billion this time.

“Now with the new variant out there for COVID, things have gotten even tougher again, so we really encourage the federal government to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund with another $60 billion,” Toia said.

Currently, Cook County is under a vaccine mandate requiring customers to show proof of vaccination to enter restaurants and bars. Toia pointed out that January is usually a slow month and the weather is not helping.

Last time around, about one-third of applicants received an RRF grant, according to Toia.

“Right here in Illinois, there were 11,000 restaurants in Illinois who got nothing,” he said.

Toia said this time associations are working to get those left out of earlier grants some help.

“We encourage our leaders in D.C. to step up and complete the mission,” Toia said.

Much of Illinois’ congressional delegation has been supportive of the idea, according to Toia. Lawmakers in favor are expected to face opposition from Republicans, who say the federal government has spent enough taxpayer money over the pandemic, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“We would hope that the federal government would put $60 billion on the side for our independent restaurants because independent restaurants are the soul of every neighborhood, not just here in the state of Illinois but around the country,” Toia said.

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