OPINION: American restaurants need COVID-19 aid now

Emma Sheeran, Opinion Editor

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives. The restaurant industry has been dealing with harsh repercussions from government measures to protect the public from the virus. However, while the government has been quick to enforce tricky restrictions on these businesses, they have failed to support them with proper aid.  

The CARES Act is an economic stimulus bill passed earlier this year in response to the pandemic. Through this initiative, small businesses were offered Paycheck Protection Program loans to serve as economic relief.  

However, many businesses did not qualify for one, or failed to receive an adequate amount of funds. Many companies that received a loan still went out of business. According to Wall Street Journal analysis, 300 companies have filed for bankruptcy despite receiving nearly half a billion dollars in funds.  

Restaurants, particularly small businesses and bars, are the backbones of communities nationwide. These establishments welcome tourists, families and locals to come and enjoy the area’s cuisine. If these businesses are so beneficial to community, then why is the government reluctant to give more beneficial aid during these difficult times?  

Another wave of the virus is greeting the fall and winter weather, making another total shutdown for 4-6 weeks likely. This is especially likely as we welcome President-elect Biden and his COVID-19 task force in January. Biden and the task force already have plans in place to control the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, these plans may have fatal consequences on small businesses throughout the country.  

Elaborate restrictions during the first nationwide shutdown forced many of these small establishments out of business. The stimulus package for small businesses was simply not enough to cover the costs of keeping the business running. This lack of relief led to furloughed employees scraping by with measly unemployment checks.  

How the world measures social space as it slowly reopens. (Photo by Danielle Rice on Unsplash)

Restaurants, chefs and food service workers nationwide are frightened by the thought of another shutdown because their businesses and careers are on the line. These people are scrambling to put their lives back together after the initial shutdown, while a second one is looming right around the corner of the new year.  

A second shutdown with inadequate economic relief will mean many of your favorite spots will go out of business. The fast pace food industry simply cannot survive such prolonged periods of closure.  

Some states are taking matters into their own hands to help local eateries stay alive. In Massachusetts, both the House and Senate have agreed to pass legislation to support the food industry. The bill was passed after restauranteurs, chefs and business owners rallied outside of the State House in Boston 

However, there are 49 other states with small businesses suffering from the lack of economic relief. These establishments need adequate assistance on the federal level in order to survive another total shutdown. Without this aid, restaurants, bars and other small food businesses will be a thing of the past.  

A note on the door reminds customers to wear masks before entering Chicho’s Backstage restaurant on Granby Street in downtown Norfolk, Va., on Monday, July 20, 2020. However, the restaurant was closed when customers try to enter. Over the weekend, the Virginia Department of Health shut down several restaurants due to COVID-19 violations. (The’ N. Pham/The Virginian-Pilot – TNS)

While we wait for new legislation to be passed, there are ways you can help. If you want to directly help food workers who have been furloughed, you can donate to one of the many nonprofit organizations that have arisen in response to the pandemic. Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund is a national nonprofit organization accepting donations of all sizes.  

If you want to help the restaurants and businesses that are struggling to stay afloat, you can buy merchandise or gift cards. Buying merchandise not only helps financially, but it also serves as advertisement for the company. A gift card is something you can buy for yourself or someone else to use later when the establishment reopens.  

Try to support your local establishments in any way that you can. All businesses are struggling during these unprecedented times. Owners everywhere are trying their best to keep the doors open, so assistance of any kind is deeply appreciated.