COVID relief bill includes restaurant relief for North Texas businesses

There's no specific money earmarked for restaurants in the latest COVID-19 relief bill, although there is more loan money available.

Restaurants will be given more leeway with how they can spend it.

The Texas Restaurant Association says somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000 restaurants have closed in the state since March of this year. And while another round of federal relief is on the way, the damage to the industry could take years to repair.

The new COVID relief bill set to put an additional $284 billion into the Paycheck Protection Program.

It came at just the right time for the struggling restaurants, like Mac’s on Main in Grapevine.

"The first round really enabled me to keep management employed, the core of my kitchen staff employees. So it was really a lifeline for me," said restaurant owner Rena Frost.

In this second round, restaurants will be eligible to receive more payroll funding, plus the ability to write off more expenses like costs for safety equipment and it will allow them to make technology and curbside pickup upgrades.

But while the bill earmarks billions for live event venues and billions for the airline industry, Frost says this round of relief is simply a Band-Aid for restaurants.

"I mean they bailed out airlines, they bailed out automobile corporations and we’re their neighbors," she said. "We’re the little guys that operate the coffee shops and small restaurants and we need something that’s set up for us."

President Donald Trump offered similar criticism late Tuesday night.

"Not enough money is being given to small businesses and in particular restaurants," he said.

Dr. Emily Williams Knight with the Texas Restaurant Association says while the second round is critical to keep restaurants open, Congress has more work to do in the New Year.

"Targeted relief, whether it be tax incentives but also in direct grants to restaurants. It’s the only way to get the industry through this," she said.

Knight paints a daunting comparison of recovery after the pandemic to the recovery after Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

"It was 18 months for the restaurants in those 30 counties to get back to pre-Harvey levels," she said. "We are projecting today it could take 3 to 4 years for this industry to recover."

The restaurant industry will get the money in January. They have up to 24 weeks to use it.