Senator Pat Stefano (R-32) today offered a proposal to establish a $145 million Hospitality Industry Recovery Program to assist restaurants and taverns that have been devastated by COVID-19 and the governor’s closings and restrictions.
Last session, as chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, Stefano pushed for legislation that would ease Governor Wolf’s arbitrary and burdensome restrictions on owners of bars and restaurants and urged him to provide financial assistance to those struggling in the restaurant industry. Today, he proposed an amendment to Senate Bill 109 that would transfer $145 million in funds from the Workers’ Compensation Security Fund to the COVID-19 Response Restricted Account to provide county block grants to the hospitality industry.
Senate Bill 109 also amends the state Fiscal Code to allocate $569.8 million for Rental and Utility Assistance and $197 million for education programs. The amendment was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee and the measure now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
Under the Hospitality Industry Recovery Program, grants would be provided in increments of $5,000 up to $50,000 to those in the restaurant industry based on the following priorities to recipients who:
- Have not already received a loan or grant from the Federal Government or Commonwealth.
- Were subject to closure by the Governor’s disaster emergency and extensions.
- Can demonstrate a revenue reduction of at least 50% for the affected time period.
Despite making every conceivable effort to operate safely, Stefano stressed that restaurants and bars have faced increasingly burdensome restrictions that are putting many out of work – leaving workers without jobs. His bill would provide, for the first time, grants to those who have been impacted. The restaurant industry is the second-largest private industry in the country, with more than 500,000 employees in Pennsylvania alone.
“Over the past year, I have spoken with hundreds of owners of restaurants, taverns, bars, and hotels. They have all echoed the same message; no business in this industry can sustain operations under the current restrictions,” Stefano said. “This financial assistance will provide them with a crucial lifeline that could save family businesses and jobs.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in December of 2019 the hospitality industry employed 582,700 people. For comparison, the employment number was down 171,500 people by December of 2020 to only 411,200 employed. In December alone, Pennsylvania saw a drop of 36,900 employees in this industry.
Under Stefano’s proposal, the loan from the Workers’ Compensation Security Fund must be repaid by July 1, 2029. If the Commonwealth receives a sufficient federal stimulus payment, the loan must be repaid within 180 days.
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