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'It’s a gut punch': $48B Senate bill to help restaurants fails

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Posted at 11:27 PM, May 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-20 23:27:38-04

CINCINNATI — Hospitality workers say they feel like the federal government has dined and dashed on hope that they might provide some aid following the pandemic.

Senate Bill 4008, which failed Thursday, would have provided $40 billion for restaurants, and another $8 billion for industries hit hard by COVID.

Tony Castelli, marketing director for Earth and Ocean Restaurant Group, has been a vocal leader for the city’s hospitality industry.

“How many local mom and pops are going to have to close down, and do God knows what because they didn’t get the funding that was promised to them when the program was unveiled,” he said.

In 2021, the Restaurant Restoration Fund was signed into law and provided $28.6 billion in aid. The problem? It ran out with around two-thirds of the applicants not receiving a single penny.

“It doesn’t come back to the people who need it most — who struggled, and expected it, told that help is on the way. It’s really disheartening,” Castelli said. “To say you can’t bail out and do something right now to help providers, and people who take a major role in the community. It falls on deaf ears. They’re intentionally deaf.”

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul voiced his frustration with the spending bill on the Senate floor Thursday.

“We don’t have the money to pay for all the stuff we give to people. It’s dishonest. It’s deceitful,” Paul said. “We give people stuff. Here’s free stuff. You don’t have to work anymore. We’re closing your business down. Here’s some money. We don’t have it, so we’ll print it up and borrow it. That’s what went on. Congress went on a spending spree.”

Paul said approving the $48 billion bill would’ve added to an already crippling inflation rate.

“Democrats need to wake up and realize that dumping more money into the economy is simply pouring $5 per gallon gas on an already out of control fire,” he said.

The vote was largely along party lines. Five Republicans in the Tri-State voted against it. Democrat Senator Sherrod Brown abstained.

Indiana Senator Mike Braun issued a statement on his ‘no’ vote saying quote:

“While I feel for businesses recovering from the pandemic, what I believe we need now is for the federal government to stop contributing to Biden’s inflation crisis by spending more money we don’t have — especially when government lockdowns hurt these businesses the most, we still have unspent COVID relief money sloshing around, and this Democrat-created program has been mismanaged from the start.”

Castelli said the hospitality industry has to focus on moving forward. Providing help to those who need it along the way.

“There was an amazing, private relief fund about two years ago when this all started for members of the industry," said Castelli. "I could very quickly see something like that happening, and I’d like to see E+O on the forefront."

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