HARRISBURG – Senators Scott Martin (R-13) and Pat Stefano (R-32) announced plans to distribute up to $500 million to Pennsylvania restaurants, bars, and businesses in the tourism and hospitality industries that are suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Senators will introduce a bill that would provide direct financial assistance to these struggling businesses. Funding would come from Pennsylvania’s share of funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The lawmakers highlighted the fact that many of these business not only suffered financial losses for months due to the Wolf Administration’s mandated business shutdown order, but also continue to grapple with unclear and confusing occupancy mandates from the Department of Health.
“Many of these businesses have been forced to close their doors because of overly restrictive and unpredictable mandates that are based on hazy or non-existent data. We need to be safe, but we also shouldn’t put people at risk of losing a livelihood they’ve been building for their entire lives,” Martin said. “Some businesses have changed their entire business model to find new and innovative ways to open and serve customers, but they are still barely holding on. We need to support these businesses and make sure they can continue to remain open and operate safely.”
In July, Governor Wolf reduced indoor dining capacity to 25 percent and put new limitations on alcohol sales. Earlier this month, the Wolf Administration rolled back some of these restrictions, but put new mandates on restaurant owners on alcohol sales and prohibited alcohol sales after 10 p.m.
“The new restaurant orders are essentially one step forward and two steps back for many business owners. The level of uncertainty makes it almost impossible for these businesses to plan or budget,” said Stefano, who serves as Chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee. “The winter season is far more difficult on the tourism and hospitality industries in the state. We need to take action now to preserve the thousands upon thousands of jobs that rely on these industries before it’s too late.”
Restaurant and food service jobs make up approximately 10 percent of employment in Pennsylvania. According to the state’s Independent Fiscal Office, more than 134,000 of these jobs were lost in 2020.