As we enter the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, caution fatigue is high, but hopes are starting to rise. Georgia has opened vaccination centers for all residents over 16, and the number of new cases has continued to decline since the astronomical peak in January. Americans now have another reason for hope.
President Joe Biden and Democratic Senators worked together to pass the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Receiving no support from Republican Senators, the law is the first COVID-19 economic relief effort to specifically target the urgent needs of those in the hospitality and entertainment industries, and it hasn’t come too soon.
A recent investigation by the National Restaurant Association found that the pandemic had forced around 100,000 restaurants to close. “It’s one in six restaurants,” reads the survey. “Some 40% of operators also said that their restaurant is unlikely to be still in business in six months. [without] additional relief packages from the federal government. “
The study also shows that overall, Americans are spending less in restaurants than before the pandemic, even with an increase in take-out and delivery options. The colder weather reduced the amount of income many establishments made from outdoor dining. They also found that waiters are likely to see a reduction in the number of tips they receive when they enforce CDC guidelines like wearing masks and social distancing.
Efforts have been made to prevent large corporations from recovering relief funds. During the first 21 days after the bill comes into force, priority will be given to establishments owned by veterans, women and other disadvantaged groups. Listed businesses and restaurants with 20 or more locations will be excluded from the bill, and “more than $ 5 billion will be set aside for small establishments with annual gross revenues of less than $ 500,000, leaving 23 , $ 6 billion for everyone. “
Unlike previous relief efforts, companies will not be penalized if their grant is not spent on payroll, meaning they are free to use the money for other overhead costs like rent or public services. Whatever they spend, they must be used up by the end of the year. The amount each business will receive will be determined by subtracting its pandemic-stricken fiscal 2020 revenue from the “normal” fiscal year 2019.
The bill also allows citizens with individual incomes of less than $ 80,000 and co-owners earning less than $ 160,000 to receive stimulus checks of $ 1,400 and extends federal pandemic unemployment checks by 300 $ until the first week of September. Under this bill, parents receive $ 3,000 per child in 2021 or up to $ 3,600 per child under 6. This means that while efforts to raise the minimum wage to $ 15 may have failed in Congress, the vast majority of hospitality and entertainment workers will receive financial support.
The entertainment industry has also been hit hard by the recession caused by the pandemic. Due to social distancing guidelines, many venues haven’t hosted a single event in over a year. Many local sites like The Masquerade have relied on live broadcast tickets, merchandising sales and donations to stay above water since March 2020. Many venue owners hope to rehire their staff from March 2020, repair or maintain their property and prepare for when they can reopen. The small business, live site portions of the American Rescue Plan Act should help to help site owners achieve these goals.
While the past year has been difficult for everyone, there are many reasons to be hopeful. More than 3,880,000 vaccines have been administered in the state of Georgia, the number of COVID cases is on the decline and this new bill allows small business owners in some of the hardest-hit sectors to seek relief while providing financial support to their employees. These may be the first steps to finally get back to normal.