Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Closed restaurant

A sign posted outside Bagel Express in New Yort City announces that it is permanently closed on September 7, 2020 in New York City. (Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images)

Nearly 90,000 Small Businesses in US Expected to Close After Senate GOP Kills Main Street Relief Bill

"The fate of these small businesses," said one advocacy group, "will be tied to those senators who voted down this lifeline today."

Julia Conley

Advocates for independently-owned businesses warned that restaurants, gyms, and other Main Street businesses across the U.S. will be forced to close in the coming months after Republicans in the Senate on Thursday blocked a $48 billion package to provide relief to owners who have struggled to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

The bipartisan Small Business Covid Relief Act (S. 4008), which was meant to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) passed last year, was cosponsored by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), but still failed to get more than five Republican senators to support it.

The vast majority of GOP lawmakers claimed that helping locally-owned restaurants and bars to stay open and continue employing people in their communities would worsen inflation and contribute to the deficit, with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) saying on the Senate floor that "dumping more money in the economy is simply pouring $5-a-gallon gas on an already out-of-control fire."

As a result, said Erika Polmar of the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC), "we estimate more than half of the 177,300 restaurants waiting for an RRF grant will close in the next few months."

The bill would have given $40 billion to independent restaurants left out of the restaurant relief program which passed last year but ran out of funds in just three weeks, with only one in three applicants receiving grants.

"Ironically, this filibuster followed a vote to stand in solidarity at a similar level of funding with a group of European allies that handled some of the worst effects of the past two years with far more grace and unity."

"Local restaurants across the country expected help but the Senate couldn't finish the job," said Polmar. "Neighborhood restaurants nationwide have held out hope for this program, selling their homes, cashing out retirement funds, or taking personal loans in an effort to keep their employees working."

The RRF bill would also have given $2 billion for gyms and fitness centers, $2 billion for live event companies, $2 billion for bus and ferry operators, $1.4 billion for companies near border crossings which have shut down during the pandemic, and $500 million for minor league sports teams.

The Community Gyms Coalition told The Hill that although an RRF replenishment bill passed in the House, the Senate "failed to invest in fitness and exercise despite their obvious benefits for Americans' mental and physical health."

"After hanging on for another year, hurting restaurants and bars throughout America, especially in rural communities, may not see any relief despite the House passing a bill just last month to put more money into the RRF," said Didier Trinh, policy and political impact director for Main Street Alliance (MSA). "The fate of these small businesses—including ones owned by women and people of color that were left behind—will be tied to those senators who voted down this lifeline today."

Along with Wicker, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) were the only Republicans who joined Democrats in voting for the bill. The Democrats needed at least 10 Republicans to support the legislation to reach 60 votes required by the legislative filibuster.

"Senators who ensured this fate instead of providing the relief small business needs now must be held accountable," tweeted MSA.

Tyler Akin, a board member of the IRC and a chef in Wilmington, Delaware, noted that the GOP's rejection of the bill immediately followed a vote approving $40 billion of military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine—more than $7 billion than President Joe Biden had requested.

"Ironically, this filibuster followed a vote to stand in solidarity at a similar level of funding with a group of European allies that handled some of the worst effects of the past two years with far more grace and unity," Akin told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "It's clear that those who aligned with Senator [Pat] Toomey today have little or no desire to support small businesses."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'People Power Has Won The Day': Manchin Dirty Deal Defeated

The win was the result of "hundreds of national and grassroots organizations, along with concerned Americans from coast to coast, working together for the health and safety of frontline communities and a livable future for the planet," said one campaigner.

Jessica Corbett ·


Emissions Unleashed by Manchin Deal Would 'Wipe Out' Any Climate Gains: Analysis

"This analysis shows that Manchin's dirty deal directly undercuts the potential carbon savings of the IRA by fast-tracking fossil fuel projects currently waiting on permits," said Fossil Free Media's Jamie Henn.

Jessica Corbett ·


Florida Told to Brace for Deadly Impact as Ian Expected to Become Category 4 Hurricane

The Tampa Bay area has long been a "sitting duck for catastrophic storm surge and has dodged several bullets," said one climate scientist. "Might not be so lucky this time."

Brett Wilkins ·


Progressives Applaud Biden for Lowering Medicare Part B Premiums

"Democrats want to expand Social Security and Medicare," said one advocate. "Republicans want to cut, privatize, and ultimately end both programs."

Kenny Stancil ·


Suit Against Student Debt Relief Slammed as 'Transparently Frivolous Publicity Stunt'

"Why would this group bring this baseless claim?" asked the White House. "Because opponents of the debt relief plan are trying anything they can to stop this program that will provide needed relief to working families."

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo