New COVID-19 relief bill brings help for local restaurants

Published: Dec. 29, 2020 at 10:34 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) -Congress passed a $900-billion dollar COVID-19 relief bill with sections dedicated eviction prevention, the arts, and struggling businesses. The bar and restaurant industry is seeing some of that help come in the form of more PPP loans, with modified rules.

Cobble Hill is preparing for its special menu for New Years Eve. It’s been a stressful winter for many Cedar Rapids restaurants. Co-owner Andy Schumacher says the new COVID-19 relief bill is coming at just the right time. ”The first act helped about through May or June, patio season helped out. Going into winter things changed a lot. I feel like if this act hadn’t been passed it probably would have been detrimental for a lot of businesses,” says Schumacher.

The new bill offers another round of PPP forgivable loans. Restaurants can now borrow more- three and a half times monthly payroll. And, the rules on what they spend that money on are looser. “The intent was to use it to maintain payroll. And so that’s still the major focus of it, to help out with payroll, keep people employed, but they’ve expanded it to be able to use it for goods and supplies, food and things and things we actually use for the restaurant,” says Schumacher.

One thing left out of the bill was the Restaurants Act. The Iowa Restaurant Association says that would have provided $120 billion in grants for independent restaurants - those with fewer than 20 locations. But president and CEO Jessica Dunker says a new round of PPP loans by themselves are critical to keeping doors open. “There are some businesses that have just been holding on, waiting, just to see if this passed. They were really going to make the go or no-go decision at the first of the year. The fact that they will be able to access this funding, and that it’s 3.5 months for restaurants, again, looking as more people get vaccinated, as more mitigations measures are lifted from our industry, it may be enough to carry them to those key holidays,” says Dunker.

Dunker says they’re still estimating 20% of bars and restaurants will be closed by the end of the pandemic.

And Schumacher says he’s grateful for the breathing room the bill is giving them. It’s important, and I hope that it helps a lot of us stick around so that when this all passes we can keep our community vibrant and strong,” says Schumacher.

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