Virus Outbreak New York

Imani Williams sanitizes tables June 29, 2020, at Junior's Restaurant in New York City, during a time period when the Brooklyn restaurant was open for takeout service and outdoor dining only.

(The Center Square) – As the time draws closer for New York to pass its fiscal year budget, the state’s dining establishments are urging lawmakers not to forget about them. 

The New York State Restaurant Association said the legislature should include a $250 million fund to help those businesses that suffered tremendously throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. That funding is just a sliver of the $5 billion the Cuomo Administration said it found earlier this week.  

State Budget Director Rob Mujica said Monday that funding helps shift budget conversations from discussing tax increases to restore cuts to talking about new programs and how they can be financed. 

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The budget is due by April 1, although Gov. Andrew Cuomo hinted Wednesday COVID issues may hinder the budget negotiation process this year.

In a statement Friday, NYSRA President and CEO Melissa Fleischut said the state has yet to offer restaurants and bars any direct funding during the pandemic. Now would be ideal. 

“It’s been more than a year of constant struggle, but we still need more assistance,” she added. “With the state’s recent announcement of an additional $5 billion in funds, we are calling on the Governor and Legislature to dedicate funding to save restaurants from failure. A mere five percent could be used to provide significant relief to every single one of the state’s restaurants, bars and caterers and kick-start the industry’s recovery. As State leaders start to finalize the budget, now is the time for the State to step up and help where it matters most.” 

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Earlier this week, the New York City Hospitality Alliance reported 44% of city restaurants responding to its survey reported year-to-year revenue declines of at least 76% last year. Another 31 saw revenues drop between 51% and 75%. 

And January didn’t start with a bang, either, as restrictions led to half of its respondents noting monthly sales up to 90% down from January 2020. 

The alliance said 49% of restaurants say government help is essential for them to cover their rent payments, and 41% say such assistance would help with payroll expenses. 

Andrew Rigie, the alliance’s executive director, said the funding the federal government provided in the American Rescue Plan will help, but dining establishments need help from all levels of government. 

“The survival of our restaurants and bars is essential to the economic recovery of New York City, so the continued number and nature of these struggling small businesses is alarming,” he said. 

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