Memphis restaurants hope for federal financial support after being left out of COVID-19 relief package

Updated: Dec. 28, 2020 at 7:11 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - President Donald Trump has signed a $900 billion, bipartisan stimulus bill into law.

The stimulus bill provides direct taxpayer aid as well as grant support for the airline and movie theater industry but does not include direct aid for the nation’s struggling restaurants.

Local restaurant managers and owners say they feel like they’ve been forgotten after being left out of the stimulus bill.

The general manager at Sunrise Memphis says many restaurants won’t be able to stay open much longer without more financial support.

“I don’t think people understand how bad restaurants are doing in the country,” said Ross Vego, General Manager of Sunrise Memphis.

With the dire situation facing restaurants around the country and in Shelby County, Vego says he was shocked to see the restaurant industry did not receive any earmarked financial support in the $900 billion COVID-19 relief package.

Financial support was given to the airline and movie theater industries among others.

“I was just kind of surprised to be honest with you because I just thought we would,” said Vego. “The CDC is pushing us to the front of the line to get one of the first vaccines, yet we can’t get more support right now it just doesn’t make sense to me.”

The COVID-19 relief package includes $284 billion for Payroll Protection Program loans. Restaurants can apply for those loans to pay employees, but Vego says that will only go so far.

“It helps but we’re really struggling right now. At 25% capacity in Shelby County I mean we’re really pushing it,” he said.

“Times are incredibly tough. There’s no doubt about it,” said Mike Miller, President of the Shelby County Restaurant Association.

Miller says the Memphis Restaurant Association along with the National Restaurant Association supports the bipartisan RESTAURANTS Act that includes $120 billion in grants to smaller bars and restaurants.

With the RESTAURANTS Act stalling for the past several months, the concern is both if and perhaps most importantly, when the RESTAURANTS Act can be passed.

“The worry is today, and how do people put food on their tables next week?” asked Miller.

Memphis restaurants say it’s still important Memphians continue to support restaurants by eating in, ordering take our even buying a gift card to use later. In addition, continuing to tip on those orders is critical for the salary of restaurant employees.

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