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Senate vote blocks restaurant COVID-19 financial aid bill

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Senate vote blocks restaurant COVID-19 financial aid bill
The U.S. Senate voted Thursday against replenishing the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, blocking a bill that would have provided $48 billion in financial relief to businesses negatively impacted by COVID-19. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

May 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate voted Thursday against replenishing the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, blocking a bill that would have provided $48 billion in financial relief to businesses negatively impacted by COVID-19.

The Small Business COVID Relief Act included $40 billion for the restaurant industry and $8 billion for other affected businesses.

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"While we didn't get the 60 votes we needed today, I remain committed to being a voice for small businesses in the Senate and will continue pushing to provide them with the support they deserve from the federal government," Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., one of the bill's sponsors, said on Twitter.

The bipartisan bill was also sponsored by Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., but failed to get the required 60 votes of support to overcome a filibuster by a 52-43 vote.

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"Today, a Senate filibuster dashed the promise made to more than 177,000 small business owners in communities across the country" National Restaurant Association Vice President Sean Kennedy said in a statement.

"These restaurant owners believed the creation of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund was a down payment, and that the Senate would complete the mission with this vote. A bipartisan majority voted to begin debate on this critical legislation, but it wasn't the 60 votes needed. While there are valid questions about government spending and inflation, restaurants should not be caught in the crossfire."

In January, the National Restaurant Association said 177,000 eligible restaurants applied for RRF grants but did not receive them; half said their restaurant would not be able to stay open without a grant.

Had it passed, Thursday's bill would have funded those restaurants that did not previously receive money.

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"When Congress offered these restaurants the RRF lifeline, restaurant owners and operators made business decisions based on those commitments," said the restaurant association's president and CEO, Michelle Korsmo.

"Restaurants that are still trying to make up for what was lost in the pandemic today are struggling with workforce shortages, record-high inflation, and supply chain constraints. Today's vote will further exacerbate those challenges and result in more economic hardships for the families and communities across the country that rely on the restaurant and foodservice industry."

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