The Senate unanimously passed a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package early Wednesday morning to provide emergency funding relief for the economic fallout of the current pandemic. A number of stimulus provisions are aimed at helping producers and workers throughout the food supply chain, from agricultural producers to restaurant workers, but small and independent restaurant owners say they’ve been left out of the stimulus package altogether.
Here’s how restaurants, food workers and food producers fared in the Senate stimulus package:
Tax Code Fix for Restaurant Industry
For almost two years, the restaurant and retail industries have been complaining about an apparent oversight in the 2017 Trump tax bill or Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that prevented businesses from claiming the full tax credit for property renovations undertaken in a single year, requiring that the amount depreciate over 39 years. That clause has now been amended at a potential benefit of $15 billion for the restaurant and retail industry, according to calculations reported by the New York Times.
Emergency Loans for Small Businesses
The stimulus authorizes $349 billion in relief for small businesses impacted by the coronavirus. Under the provisions of the stimulus relief package, the Small Business Administration is authorized to award grants of up to $10,000 to suffering small businesses, including restaurants and other small food producers.
Employer Tax Benefit
Employers who are suffering financially but still paying their employees during this time are eligible for a limited tax credit for employee taxes. This could help the many restaurants who are shut down or providing limited delivery or takeout business but are still paying a full roster of idle employees.
Small Business Loophole for Franchisees
Businesses that have fewer than 500 employees but multiple business locations, including many restaurants and hotels, are able to benefit from the small business benefits in the bill. This potential loophole could allow franchisees of large corporations to take advantage of loans and other benefits ostensibly intended for small businesses only.
USDA Funding For Food Safety Inspections
The bill awards nearly 24 billion dollars to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including $14 billion to the agency for various coronavirus contingencies, like ensuring the agency has sufficient employees to staff quarantine and food safety inspections.
Cattle Ranchers, Food and Vegetable Growers
The bill also awards $9.5 billion to a USDA emergency fund to provide support for agricultural producers impacted by coronavirus, including specialty crops like fresh fruits and vegetables, livestock producers, cattle ranchers and dairy producers.
Unemployed Restaurant Workers
There is good news for recently unemployed restaurant workers seeking benefits. For the nearly 5 to 7 trillion workers the restaurant industry is projecting will lose their jobs as a result of coronavirus shutdowns, the stimulus offers an additional weekly check of $600 for four weeks. That amount is above and beyond both the government checks for individuals authorized by the stimulus as well as existing state unemployment benefits.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
The stimulus increases funding for food stamps or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by $33 million and also makes it easier for children, seniors, and individuals with disabilities who already receive SNAP to get their food and other related benefits.
What’s Missing: Small And Independent Restaurateurs Left Out
Small business owners, many of whom are independent restaurateurs, are criticizing the stimulus package as offering too many loopholes for franchise operations and other large businesses that will cut into the total amount of funding relief available to them. They’ve organized a social media campaign aimed at grabbing the attention of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, and other House representatives using the hashtag #sizematters.
What’s next? The bill heads to the U.S. House of Representatives next, where it will likely be voted on this Friday. House Majority leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md, has said the timing will allow House Democrats enough time to review the language of the bill. However, Speaker Pelosi has also said the stimulus is likely to pass in the House with strong bipartisan support.